Disease destroying deer - WNEM TV 5

Disease destroys more than 4,200 deer across state

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SAGINAW COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

This cooler weather is a sure sign deer hunting season is right around the corner, and this year, hunters have a new foe in the field.

A virus is killing off thousands of deer, and so far, 4,200 deer deaths have been reported so far in Michigan.

The disease is called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), and it's sweeping across the state.  There have been 24 counties with confirmed cases so far.

The disease is devastating for deer that come down with it.  A deer is infected once it is bitten by a bug with it.  The deer then suffers extensive internal bleeding, loses its appetite and becomes extremely thirsty.  The deer also comes down with a fever.  Most cases involve infected deer sick or dead near water.

"Since July, the DNR, in cooperation with many helpful volunteers, has been monitoring the EHD outbreak.  This is a horrible disease for hunters, DNR personnel and other wildlife enthusiasts to see affecting deer," said Brent Rudolph, DNR deer and elk program leader.

The DNR said several people have voiced concerns with hunting and harvesting an EHD-infected deer.  In a release, the DNR says EHD does not affect humans, so edibility of the venison is not affected by this disease. 

This hunting year will not be interrupted and deer season will go on as planned.

Rudolph says the bug bearing the disease should die with this year's first hard frost.  The bugs have thrived this year because of the dry, hot summer.  Other cases have been documented in neighboring states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

If a landowner and hunter comes across a large area of dead deer or if you'd like more information, you can visit the DNR Website.  To see the number of cases in certain counties, click here.

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