The lingering drought that is seriously hampering Midwest crop production is doing more than just shriveling corn cobs and stunting soybean plants.
It also is causing a race of a deadly disease through the region’s white-tail deer herd.
As has been mentioned here before, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has found its way into Ohio’s deer herd.
EDH has been confirmed in deer from eight Ohio counties. They include: Geauga, Ashtabula, Columbiana, Holmes, Paulding, Portage, Ross and Summit, up significantly from when the disease was first reported in a Geauga County captive deer herd..
No reports as of yet of EDH sickened deer from Lake County, however.
Yet while Ohio is seeing the impact of EDH other of is sibling Midwest states are even worse off, the disease racing through state after state.
The Illinois that state’s Department of Natural Resources reports that citizens have counted more than 700 deer deaths in 51 counties through August.
Also, the Illinois DNR says that the first reports of EDH-killed deer began surfacing in July, primarily from the southern half of the state.
“Through the end of August, IDNR biologists had logged reports of 721 dead deer from 51 counties,” The Illinois DNR said in an electronic dispatch. “The highest numbers of EHD-related deer mortality have come from Cook (256), Macon (69), and Calhoun (59) counties.”
Of course, southern Illinois has a long-standing and legitimate reputation for producing large-antlered bucks. Thus, a loss of heavy antlered animals there could hurt the opportunity to collect a record-book buck.
Illinois wildlife officials further note that their state - as well as Ohio- are not alone in encountering deer die-offs as a result of a growing number of EDH outbreaks. Such swarms are now being reported in Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa, and Missouri.
Similarly, each of these states is known for producing trophy deer as well.
And in 2011, the Illinois DNR received probable EHD reports from eight Illinois counties. But the last major outbreak occurred in 2007, during another very dry summer, when EHD was reported from 57 counties, Illinois wildlife officials say also.
Ohio’s last serious EHD outbreaks were in 2005 and 2007, adds Mike Tonkovich, the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s white-tailed deer management administrator.
However, both Ohio and Illinois wildlife officials stress, EHD is
nothing new. The disease was first identified in 1955 in Michigan and
Not to be lost either is the fact that EHD is the most common ailment affecting deer
in the Eastern United States, says the University of Georgia’s annual Southeastern Cooperative
Wildlife Disease Study,
For those people unfamiliar with EDH, deer contract the viral disease via a bite of tiny biting gnats, which can cause high fever and severe internal bleeding in deer.
While often fatal in deer, EHD is not hazardous to humans, livestock or pets, wildlife officials from both states say.
Also, EHD is related to, but not the same as “blue tongue,” which affects sheep and cattle, wildlife officials acknowledge.
Symptoms of EHD in deer may include sluggishness, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, salivation, a high fever and swelling of the head, neck, tongue or eyelids. Infected animals will seek water and are often found close to ponds, lakes and creeks.
Ohio wildlife officials stress to those planning to hunt impacted areas this fall that although this disease does not affect humans nor impact the safety of consumed deer, hunters should report deer that appear to be sick or diseased to their local wildlife officer.
Deer that appear unhealthy should never be taken for human food, Tonkovich says.
-Jeffrey L. Frischkorn