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Author: Cabela's Staff
Some deer hunters in Midwestern and Western states plagued by this year's drought are making a grim discovery as they head out to scout their favorite hunting spots.
Deer numbers in some regions have been thinned by localized outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), an acute, infectious, often fatal viral disease that primarily affects white-tailed deer. While localized outbreaks of EHD occur from coast to coast annually, this year's occurrences seem to be compounded by the hot dry summer.
Spread by biting midges, EHD causes deer to initially lose their appetite and fear of man. Infected deer grow progressively weaker, often salivate excessively, develop a rapid pulse, heavy breathing and fever, according to Whitetails Unlimited. Affected animals will seek out bodies of water to lie in to reduce their body temperature typically infected animals die within eight to 36 hours.
The first occurrence and subsequent identification of EHD occurred in 1955 when several hundred white-tailed deer succumbed in both New Jersey and Michigan. Over the years, suspected EHD outbreaks have occurred in Missouri, Washington, Nebraska, Iowa and British Columbia. All documented outbreaks occurred during late summer and early fall and ended abruptly with the first frost.
Because many Western and Midwestern states experienced an early October hard freeze accompanied by snowfall, it's possible the worst of this season's outbreak is over in these areas.
If you encounter deer in the field that appear to be infected or would like to know if EHD has been reported in your area, you're encouraged to contact your state or provincial wildlife agency.