On September 11, we posted a blog stating that it looks like we “dodged the epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD or HD) bullet” this year. The blog was based on reports by deer biologists who annually monitor the disease and according to the experts 2013 was shaping up to be a pretty normal year as far as HD goes. They were confident that 2013 outbreaks would pale in comparison to the serious outbreaks that shook the whitetail community in 2012.
Some Outdoor Life readers felt as if the experts were premature with their early September assessment. We decided to take another look at the issue now that most of the disease-carrying midges have been frozen into submission, (at least in the most states) and are pleased to report that the scientists were right on the money with their early fall prediction.
According to Dr. David Stallknecht, Southeastern Conference Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) researcher, and University of Georgia professor: “With most of the country it appears to be a relatively “normal” year if such a thing still exists. We are documenting cases through the historic range of HD in the US but submissions are on the low side. You can definitely say that the end is in sight. Historically we get very few isolates in November and all of these late ones come from the South.” SCWDS does the majority of confirmatory testing for HD in the country.
QDMA Wildlife Biologist, Kip Adams agreed. “Fortunately, HD deaths in 2013 were only a fraction of what they were during the record year of 2012,” Adams said. “You won’t see any surprises with regards to new areas or major die-offs this late in the year”.
Stallknecht and Adams are not the only HD watchers to weigh in. Michigan was particularly hard hit in 2012–approximations were as high as 15,000 dead deer. The final results are not yet in for 2013, but according to Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Research Specialist, Dr. Brent Rudolph, “We’ve not had anything like last year. States across the Midwest are reporting similar decreases. Missouri, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois are reporting nothing close to last year.” Ohio is reporting no outbreaks in wild deer thus far but a few confirmed in captive herds.
Unlike most states, Montana was particularly hard hit in 2012. According to Montana wildlife officials, EHD outbreaks were wider ranging and more severe than usual. Montana deer herds suffered significant setbacks in regions 2 and 6 and saw the disease spread west of the continental divide. This has raised serious concerns among Montana wildlife officials. Stallknecht reported western states as a possibly having “above normal submissions” for HD testing this year.
North Dakota was still reeling form last year’s outbreak when Outdoor Life reported that wildlife officials there had restricted antlerless deer permits earlier this fall. Concerned that early outbreaks were a precursor to a larger deer kill, biologists are now relieved to report that they were not as severe as they thought they might have been. The early restriction was a cautionary response to last year’s severe outbreak.
Make no mistake, many states had outbreaks this year and many hunters were more that a little concerned. All things considered, however, it was a normal year for HD across the vast majority of whitetail country. But the new normal for HD means breakouts in areas where the disease has never been found before and some of them can be severe. Tom Litchfield, Deer Project biologist from Iowa put it this way: “This year’s outbreak will be the second largest ever in the state (650 now), we would be thinking it was pretty big if it hadn’t been for last year’s 3,000.”
Quality Deer Management (QDMA) officials and the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) from the University of Georgia monitor deer diseases and each has issues regular updates on deer disease outbreaks.