Late summer and early fall is epizootic hemorrhagic disease time (commonly, but incorrectly, called “blue tongue” disease). EHD is a potentially fatal disease that’s capable of causing dramatic whitetail die offs. Last year severe outbreaks of EHD were reported in MI, NJ, and a host of other states; including some that had not experienced significant EHD die offs before. EHD outbreaks have occurred in most whitetail regions with the exception of a small number of northern states.
EHD is caused by the bites of infected midges which are commonly found near water on exposed mud flats usually caused by hot, dry conditions. They breed in muddy wet areas typically found near bodies of water, swamps, and bogs. Disease transmission ceases immediately after the first hard frost.
Symptoms include: loss of appetite, weakness, rapid respiration, panting, fever, and erratic behaviror. Death generally occurs 8 to 36 hours after the onset of symptoms. EHD infected whitetails are often found near watering areas as they crave water with the onset of the disease. Dead deer on watering locations in late summer and fall usually indicates an EHD outbreak.
While common in many southern states, EHD outbreaks are occurring more frequently in northern locations. Northern outbreaks are often more severe as southern deer appear to have developed some immunity and are less likely to die in large numbers. Uncommonly warm, dry weather in northern areas in recent years is a possible reason for the spread of outbreaks. This year has been quite wet in many whitetail areas but hunters need to keep an eye on watering holes from now until the first frost. Report any and all dead deer found at these sites to state conservation officials.
Deer populations generally bounce back from EHD outbreaks in 2 to 3 years but it could be much more if predators are a problem in your area. One thing is for sure, if your herd is reduced this fall by a third due to EHD, you don’t want to be filling any doe tags or this fall.