Both ends of the Illinois reporting deer cases
Tamaroa, Ill. — Just as it appeared the state’s deer herd had escaped notable epizootic hemorrhagic disease outbreaks this summer, phones started ringing and hunters commenced buzzing.
A much-discussed case in southern Illinois’ Perry County involved a trophy-sized buck that was discovered dead, apparently from EHD.
More concerning were stories of EHD killing northern Illinois deer. One of the first reports of an EHD-infected deer to ever come out of northern Cook County involved an animal found near Harper College in Palatine.
“We’ve never seen it here,” Cook County wildlife biologist Chris Anchor told the Chicago Tribune, “This is a disease that usually does not get this far north in the state.”
The southern Illinois deer had all the symptoms of the disease, said Region 5 CPO Charlie Diggins, who was called to investigate the dead deer near Tamaroa. Diggins reported that the deer was found near a water source, which is typical in deer with the disease. Diggins also reported that the deer was probably “8 to 10 years old, and it is also typical for the disease to affect older deer.”
Southern Illinois typically has numerous cases of EHD in any given year – drought or no drought. And Diggins said he has only handled two or three calls in Perry County concerning dead deer. However, the regional DNR office in Benton had been receiving quite a few calls regarding dead deer.
Meanwhile, the number of deer found in Cook County had surged past the 100 mark by the end of August.
“We’re trying to remove dead deer that are in picnic areas, near trials, parking lots, and any animals that died in the water,” Anchor told the Tribune. “All we can do is sit back and let the disease run its course.”
According to the Associated Press, the outbreak has prompted many phone calls from hikers in northern Illinois woods who were alarmed to find groups of dead deer. Officials at the Forest Preserve District of
Cook County had to assure the public that no one is poisoning the deer and that the disease is not transmittable to humans.
DNR, which points to the outbreak of EHD during the summer of 2007 as being one of the worst on record, is not downplaying the surge in reports. But it has noted that the disease tends to run its course during dry conditions.
A lack of rainfall drives deer to congregate near fewer remaining ponds and creeks, where they can be bitten by a midge, the small flying insect that transmits the illness. EHD is believed to have been around for more than a century, but the emergence of cases in various parts of the country could result in the worst outbreak since the record-setting numbers of 2007, said Kip Adams, wildlife biologist for the Quality Deer Management Association.
“It’s setting the stage to be a really terrible year,” Adams said. “It used to be talked about more as a southern disease. But in the last several years, it’s amazing how the northern states have had far worse outbreaks than ever before.”
As the Illinois deer herd endures EHD, neighboring states appear to be getting hit, too.
Indiana wildlife officials reported several cases in August, and an outbreak in Michigan killed about 1,000 deer.
Marty Jones, DNR’s urban deer project manager, said he did not expect EHD to have a significant impact on the deer population statewide. “They’re a very resilient animal,” Jones said.
In southern Illinois, Diggins said the Tamaroa case caught attention because of the size of the buck that fell victim to the disease.