Epizootic Hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has hit Michigan hard this summer leaving hundreds of dead whitetail deer in its wake. More than 200 deer have been reported dead in Calhoun County and an additional 250 were reported dead in Branch County alone. The total number of reported EHD losses is currently 1,600 with hundreds more likely unrecovered.
So what is EHD? Kip Adams, certified wildlife biologist and Director of Education & Outreach at the Quality Deer Management Association explained the disease to me. Adams says, “EHD is a viral disease and the most common whitetail disease. It’s transmitted by biting midges, commonly called no-see-ums, and it happens every year.”
Michigan is a large state with a healthy whitetail population with over a million. While 1,600 deer might seem like a lot on paper, when you’re talking about a number over a million, it’s just a small percentage.
Although the overall deer population in Michigan might not be at risk, local herds can suffer from EHD and show a sudden drop in population. For deer hunters, this could mean filling fewer tags this fall and a lot more effort put into finding deer. The good news is that the deer herd will recover from this outbreak as it always does following an EHD outbreak.
There’s also good news for humans – we are not at risk of contracting EHD by handling infected deer, eating venison from infected deer, or being bitten by infected midges. To top it off, our pets are safe too.
If you’re hunting an area that was affected by the EHD outbreak this summer you may want to consider taking less deer. This could help the population recover quicker from the outbreak, as more does will be available for bucks to breed. It will be interested to see what effects this has on the Michigan deer season this fall, hopefully, hunters can still get out in the woods and enjoy the hunt, even if there are a few less deer in the woods.