Some readers might think the Outdoor News Hound is overdoing coverage on this year’s regional outbreaks of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, but reports of dead and dying big game animals in one of the West’s most popular whitetail, mule deer and antelope trophy-hunting regions is definitely newsworthy.
My longtime buddy Mark Henckel, the stellar outdoors scribe for the Billings Gazette, writes today that bluetongue has been confirmed as the cause of death of deer and antelope in the Musselshell River drainage in the southeastern part of Montana.
In addition to Montana, some potentially severe outbreaks of EHD have been reported in regions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. In all instances, the viral disease appears to be predictably following in the footsteps of severe drought patterns in the affected states.
Jay Newell, wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks told Henckel he counted 67 dead deer in the Musselshell River during a recent flight from Roundup to Melstone.
“The highest mortality was from Musselshell to Melstone. It got to be more and more the further you went downriver,” Newell said. “From Melstone to Mosby, I’ve gotten reports of a significant number of deer that died there, too.”
Then, there are the pronghorns.
“In July, I flew four subunits of Hunting District 530. I flew those over the last two days. I counted about 26 percent less antelope than I did in July,” Newell said. “It’s also significant that the buck numbers were down 44 percent.”
Outdoor Life blogger Mike Hanback wrote recently about the severe 2001 EHD outbreak on Montana’s Musselshell, when almost half of the whitetails succumbed to the disease. A press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks indicates that--at least for now--the 2007 outbreak does not appear as widespread and severe.
If you hunt in a state or region not impacted by EHD in 2007, consider yourself fortunate—and I apologize to you for the extensive blogging I’ve done on the subject in recent weeks.
But I can tell you without hesitation, in many parts of the U.S. this September, EHD is the most-discussed subject in factories, around water coolers, on construction sites and in barrooms.
There, it’s BIG news, folks.