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Deer die of insect-borne disease

While Oklahomans are dealing with mosquitoes and the West Nile Virus they carry, the state’s deer herd is also being affected by insect-borne disease.  Biologists with the Oklahoma Department of

Photo by L. Dillon.  Click to enlarge.

Wildlife Conservation say a viral disease has been confirmed in at least one deer and may be related to 10 others found dead near the Verdigris River in northeast Oklahoma.

According to Erik Bartholomew, big game biologist for the Wildlife Department, the disease that killed the deer has been in Oklahoma for several decades. The Wildlife Department receives scattered reports every year in Oklahoma and there are occasional small outbreaks like this one.

“Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is a hemorrhagic disease caused by a virus and spread by the bite of a midge or small fly, usually during the late summer or early fall, when the midge becomes active,” Bartholomew said. “This virus is not transmissible to humans.”

Fortunately the virus is not known to be transmissible from an infected deer to other deer through individual contact.  Some forms of EHD kill deer quickly while others simply make the deer sick for a while before recovering. The virus can lead to high fever, causing infected deer to seek water to cool off. Dead deer usually are found in or near water. In most cases, infected deer are in good body condition because the disease usually runs its course and kills the animal quickly.

Currently there are no wildlife management tools or strategies available to prevent or control EHD. Bartholomew said there is little concern about the outbreak having a significant impact on deer populations, and any outbreaks will be curtailed by the onset of colder weather.

ODWC asks that you report any sick deer or deer that are acting abnormal to your county game warden. A listing of game warden phone numbers by county is available online at wildlifedepartment.com.


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