Wisconsin wildlife officials have confirmed that tissue samples submitted from deer found dead in Columbia and Rock counties have tested positive for epizootic hemorrhagic disease.
A number of citizens in southern Wisconsin contacted the Department of Natural Resources with recent observations of small groups of dead deer. Reports came primarily from the Town of Dekorra in Columbia County, but also from Rock, Waukesha and Walworth counties.
DNR wildlife health specialists submitted the tissue samples for testing to Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population & Animal Health, which confirmed they died of EHD. Additional tests of deer from Waukesha and Walworth counties are pending and expected within the next one to two weeks.
“Our neighbor states have been seeing EHD outbreaks for the last several weeks and now it has made its way into southern Wisconsin,” said Eric Lobner, DNR southern Wisconsin wildlife supervisor.
EHD is a fairly common disease carried by midges — commonly referred to as no-see-ums — but the virus that causes the disease does not infect humans, according to health specialists, so people are not at risk when handling infected deer, eating venison from infected deer or being bitten by infected midges.
“We are fortunate that the public is tuned into our deer and was quick to report these small pockets of problems,” Lobner said. “By sharing information about the outbreak, we are hoping to get help from the public by providing more eyes on the ground in order to continue to collect observations of sick or dead deer. These observations will help us more clearly understand the geographic distribution and number of deer affected by this disease. This will be valuable information to inform management decisions for future years and provide a better understanding of overall impact of the disease on our deer population.”
EHD is often fatal, typically killing an infected deer within seven days. The last EHD observation in Wisconsin was in 2002 in Iowa County where 14 deer died from the virus.
EHD is common across southern states and occasionally shows up as far north as the upper Midwest. This year, outbreaks of EHD have been reported in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota and Iowa. The disease is typically short lived as the flies that transmit the disease die with the first hard frost.
Individuals that observe deer exhibiting the following signs are encouraged to report their observations to the DNR:
- Excessive salivation or foaming around the nose and mouth.
- Appearing weak and approachable by humans.
- In or near water sources. They will often lay in water to cool down or drink.
Wildlife officials say there is no risk to people or pets from deer that have died of EHD and that deer carcasses can be left on the landscape to decompose. The DNR will not be collecting or removing deer that have died as a result of this outbreak.
As a result of this confirmation, the DNR is no longer collecting samples from dead deer found in Columbia and Rock counties; however, officials do want to take samples from dead deer reported in counties where EHD has not been confirmed. Also, in order to monitor the geographic distribution and the number of deer affected by this EHD event, the DNR does want people to continue to report sick or dead deer within Columbia and Rock counties.
“Often in cases of diseases like this, once we have confirmed the presence of the disease our goal is to have a better handle on the distribution and the number of deer that are affected by the disease,” Lobner said. “Keeping a close eye on the health of our deer is important. Though there is little we can do to prevent the disease, with the onset of cold weather and frost, this outbreak should be over soon. Any information we can get will help us better understand the impact of the disease on our herd. ”
To report a sick deer observation please call the DNR call center toll free at 1-888-WDNR- INFo (1-888-936-7463), email DNRInfo@Wisconsin.gov, or use the chat feature on the DNR website. Staff are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Please be prepared to provide details about the condition of the deer and the exact location where the deer was observed.