Hunters in much of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula will have a cap on the number of deer they can take home this season. A disease that’s killing thousands of deer has prompted the state to enforce new hunting restrictions.
Last winter was unusually warm and that’s helped create fertile breeding ground for the biting fly that spreads Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. It has infected deer in a record 30 Michigan counties; killing at least 13,000 deer this year. EHD does not affect humans.
Brent Rudolph runs the deer and elk program at the Department of Natural Resources.
“The disease has really localized effects so it’s hard for us to adjust regulations at the scale that deer are dying in large numbers,” Rudolph said.
The DNR has instituted a cap this year to ensure that people “can’t go too far overboard” in the spots hardest hit. Rudolph says the DNR is encouraging hunters to avoid the hardest hit areas by accessing this map that’s updated weekly.
People have reported the most deer deaths in Kent and Ionia counties.
On public land hunters will only be able to snag two antlerless deer tags (no limit before). On private land they’ll be limited to five (down from ten). Rudolph estimates only about a thousand hunters took out more than that many deer last season.
“The losses are really disheartening for folks to see but fortunately this isn’t a disease that stays in the deer population or that has lingering health effects,” Rudolph said.