Capital News Service

of the Michigan State University School of Journalism

Hunters: Be alert for listless deer

By JULIET WANG
Capital News Service

LANSING—Hunters should be on the lookout for sick-looking deer because of a disease that causes animals to become weak, a state expert says.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is transmitted by biting flies and causes high fever, said Tom Cooley.

Infected deer have been found in Berrien, Cass and Ottawa counties this year, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

If hunters find a sick-looking deer, contact the Michigan DNRE Wildlife Disease Laboratory.

“If the deer is dying in bodies of water, it raises a red flag,” said Cooley, a wildlife pathologist at DNRE.

White-tailed deer show signs of the disease promptly, including loss of appetite and excessive salivation, a high fever and a high respiration rate, Cooley said. The disease causes the deer to become thirsty, so they’re most likely to be found near bodies of water.

“Within three to 10 days of infection, the deer will develop signs of illness,” said Cooley. “It’s quick.”

Steven Bolin tests infected deer carcasses for the virus.

“We don’t see this disease every year. Sometimes it can be as many as 20 positive, but it’s never that big of a number. Of all the deer that test positive, it’s a pretty small number,” said Bolin of the Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Four or five or six will test positive and we’ll test twice that many deer,” said Bolin.

Richard King of the mid-Michigan branch of the Quality Deer Management Association has hunted for 30 years in the Gladwin area and has not come across any deer infected with EHD.

“My experiences have been good,” said King, of Gladwin. “The one sick deer that I’ve encountered was very malnourished and could not stand. It just laid there and suffered. I called the DNRE and was told to follow up on it but I never did. That was a long time ago.”

EHD is not common but has been showing up more frequently.

Cooley said, “There haven’t been many cases, but recently, from 2006 to 2010, it showed up four times in five years.”

In 2006, die-offs occurred in Allegan County with 50 to 75 animals. In 2008, the die-off occurred in Oakland and Macomb counties and involved 150 to 200 deer. In 2009, die-offs occurred in Livingston County with more than 150 deer.

“It’s hard to say why. It might be because of the weather or climate change because the disease seems to be moving north. Historically, it affected the southern areas,” Cooley said.

There is no known evidence that humans can contract the disease.

“If a human were to consume a deer with EHD, there would be no human risk,” said Cooley.

“However, it’s recommended that hunters not consume sick-acting deer. Not every deer that gets infected dies, but be on the lookout.”

Regular firearm hunting season runs from Nov. 15 to Nov. 30.

© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.

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Filed under: Environment

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