EHD found in Michigan deer herd

Bill ParkerJust when it looked like Michigan’s prized whitetail herd may have dodged a bout with epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) this summer, test results from a dead deer in Muskegon County came back positive for the often fatal deer disease.

The Michigan DNR and Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health announced yesterday that EHD has been officially confirmed in a white-tailed deer from Muskegon County, which is the first county to have EHD hit this fall.

The disease is caused by a virus that is transmitted by a midge, commonly referred to as “no-seeums.” Scientists don’t know how midges get the disease, but the good news is that EHD does not affect humans.

EHD was rarely found in Michigan white-tailed deer until  eight years ago. Since then it has been a regular visitor to the state. In addition to the recent outbreak in Muskegon County the DNR estimates that EHD killed at least 13,000 deer in 30 counties, mostly in southern Michigan, in 2012; 300 deer in Cass and St. Joseph counties in 2011; over 1,000 deer in Ottawa, Allegan, VanBuren, Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph counties in 2010; 300 to 400 deer in Livingston County in 2009; 150 to 200 deer in  Oakland and Macomb counties in 2008; and 50 to 75 deer in Allegan County in 2006. It was also found in 1974 (Iosco, Arenac, Mecosta, Gratiot and Ingham counties) and 1955 (Lake, Manistee, Muskegon and Saginaw counties).

According to the DNR, the disease is found in wild ruminants (animals that chew their cud) and is characterized by extensive hemorrhages. White-tailed deer develop signs of the illness about seven days after exposure. Deer initially lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, salivate excessively, develop a rapid pulse and respiration rate, become unconscious, then die. Due to a high fever, the deer are often found sick or dead along or in bodies of water.

Anyone who finds multiple dead deer, especially in or near water, or those seeking more information on EHD can contact their local wildlife biologist at the nearest DNR office. Office locations can be found at under Wildlife Offices.

The disease disappears in the fall after the first hard frost kills the midges that transmit the disease. Let’s hope for an early fall and lots of frost on the pumpkins.

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