Environment & Science
2:01 pm
Sun September 23, 2012

Michigan wildlife officials hope to hear from hunters about the spread of a deadly deer virus

Thousands of deer have died in Michigan due to a virus in the last few months.

State wildlife officials hope to hear from deer hunters this week as they try to track the disease.

This past weekend, thousands of Michigan deer hunters took to the woods.  A few were legally allowed to hunt deer, but most of them just to track deer they will try to bag when bow season starts next month.

State wildlife officials hope hunters report any deer they find dead in state rivers and lakes.   Once infected, the deer’s body temperature rises, leading them to seek water.  The deer often die next to or in the water.

An insect spread virus (Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD)) has killed more than four thousand deer in Michigan since July.

The virus has also killed deer in eleven other states, including Indiana and Ohio.

Dan O’Brien is a veterinarian with the Department of Natural Resources.

“(DNR’s ability to get) animals to test is predicated on the public actually finding dead deer…and finding them soon enough after death that they’re in a condition that we can do laboratory tests to confirm the presence of the virus,” says O’Brien.

The virus is not a threat to humans.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is not unusual.   There are cases of the disease most years in Michigan.  But the size of this year’s outbreak is unprecedented in Michigan.  The largest previous outbreaks (in 1955 and 1974) killed around a thousand deer.   This year, the number of cases is four times as much, and growing.   State wildlife officials blame the unusually warm winter and summer drought conditions for creating the huge outbreak.

The outbreak is expected to continue until there is a hard freeze in the Lower Peninsula.   That will kill the small insects that carry the virus and spread EHD to the white tail deer.