Indiana Investigating EHD Outbreaks in Deer

Wildlife biologists from the Indiana DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife have been investigating reports of sick or dead deer to determine if the cause is epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).

Morgan and Putnam counties seem to be experiencing the most intense outbreaks thus far, but suspect reports have come from 11 counties in total.

EHD is a viral disease that likely affects white-tailed deer every year. It typically occurs during late summer and early fall, and there is evidence that shows outbreaks may be worse during drought years. EHD is transmitted by flies commonly known as biting midges, sand gnats and no-see-ums.

“Although the reports DNR is receiving are consistent with EHD episodes of past years, it’s important for testing to be done on viable samples before it can be confirmed,” said Chad Stewart, DNR deer management biologist. “Samples need to be collected within 24 hours of the deer expiring to be viable.”

Stewart was able to collect an adequate sample Wednesday from Morgan County and forwarded it to a national disease testing laboratory in Georgia. He expects the results in one to two weeks.

The test will either confirm EHD or may indicate something else, such as bluetongue virus, another hemorrhagic disease that can affect domestic livestock as well as deer.

Deer infected with EHD may appear depressed or feverish. They often seek comfort in or around water. Other signs may include blue-tinted tongue or eyes, ulcers on the tongue, sloughed hooves or an eroded dental pad.

Hemorrhagic disease is often fatal to deer, but some will survive the illness. Not every deer will contract hemorrhagic disease, which can be present or absent in any area. Death losses during an outbreak can range from negligible to greater than 50 percent. Severe outbreaks rarely occur in later years due to immunity gathered from previous infections.

“If you see a deer that you suspect may have died from EHD, contact your local wildlife biologist to report the location and possibly arrange a sample to be collected,” Stewart said.

A list of district biologists and contact information is at dnr.IN.gov/fishwild/2716.htm.

The Division of Fish & Wildlife has monitored EHD for the past five years after a significant outbreak in 2007. Monitoring statistics for the past five years:

2011 – 9 counties received reports of EHD; 2 counties confirmed through lab tests.

2010 – 10 counties received reports of EHD; no counties confirmed.

2009 – No reported EHD

2008 – 20 counties received reports of EHD; 7 counties confirmed through lab tests.

2007 – 59 counties received reports of EHD; 17 counties confirmed through lab tests.

For more information: Chad Stewart, DNR deer management biologist, (317) 334-1137, cstewart@dnr.in.gov.

COMMENT