Insects spread virus that kills deer

Some Triangle hunters may encounter sick and dying deer this fall.

An outbreak of a virus spread by tiny insects that proliferated over this wet summer has brought epizootic hemorrhagic disease to white-tailed deer.

“This is not a catastrophic event, by any means. This is sort of a ‘normal’ outbreak in terms of size,” Greg Batts, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission wildlife biologist for District 3, said Monday by phone from Zebulon. “It is something hunters are going to notice.”

Hunters may see dead deer near water and skinny deer in hunting areas. The disease causes a loss of appetite and a high fever, sending sick deer to water.

Franklin County has had more than 60 cases, Batts said. About 30 cases have been recorded in Vance County, 25 in Wake and a dozen or more in Johnston. Other areas have not reported outbreaks.

Batts said hunters needn’t shoot deer because they’re skinny; survivors will return to corn piles to fatten up and will have antibodies against the virus. But if it’s a deer the hunter normally would shoot, there’s no reason not to.

“Humans are not affected by these viruses, and the affected venison can be consumed,” the biologist said.

Often mistaken for a similar disease called blue tongue, which is rarely found and wrongly called black tongue – epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, is spread by tiny biting flies, gnats or midges, Batts said.

The virus, which is not transmitted deer to deer, is seen in late summer and early fall when the insects are most active.

“The flies live only 21-40 days,” Batts said. “When the weather gets cool enough we won’t see any more activity.”

Bates said biologists would like to know which of several variants of the disease is affecting deer. Hunters who find deer that died within the previous 12 hours can call 919-707-0050 so biologists can arrange to take blood and spleen samples from the deer. Learn about EHD at www.ncwildlife.org/Hunting/AftertheHunt/DeerDiseases.

Comment sought: The Wildlife Resources Commission is revising management of captive cervid through the temporary rule-making process and will hold hearings Oct. 7 and Oct. 14.

Proposed changes would allow issuance of new captivity licenses and permits for keeping captive cervids, such as deer and elk, and allow owners of certified herds to sell or transfer cervids to any licensed facility.

The Oct. 7 hearing is at 7 p.m. at the Iredell County Extension Center in Statesville. The Oct. 14 hearing is 7 p.m. at commission headquarters, 1751 Varsity Drive, Raleigh.

Comments, due Oct. 16, can be emailed to regulations@ncwildlife.org. Learn more at www.ncwildlife.org/ProposedRegulations.

Trout update: Hatchery-supported regulations ended Wednesday and delayed-harvest regulations went into effect for 33 trout waters in 18 western counties. No trout can be harvested until June. Go to www.ncwildlife.org/fishing, or follow @NCWildlife on Twitter.

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