Outdoors blog

Diseases suspected in Montana deer deaths

A whitetail buck shows antlers freshly shed of velvet in late August. (Jaime Johnson)
A whitetail buck shows antlers freshly shed of velvet in late August. (Jaime Johnson)

HUNTING -- Drought may be delivering another blow to deer herds in a portion of Montana, where disease and tough winters already have lowered deer numbers in recent years.

Dead white-tailed deer, possibly killed by epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, have been reported in north-central Montana, state wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

Dead and dying whitetails have been spotted from the Great Falls area to Simms on the Sun River north to the Marias River and even north of Chester. according to a story in the Billings Gazette. While the number of dead deer is not clear, it appears to be at least dozens, based on people calling about finding dead whitetails.

EHD has not been confirmed yet; Fish Wildlife and Parks officials are awaiting test results.

EHD is spread among deer, primarily whitetails, by biting midges. It is one of several hemorrhagic disease viruses found in wild and domestic ruminants.

A related disease, bluetongue virus, affects domestic livestock. While EHD can also infect livestock, it has not been proven to spread from deer to livestock or vice versa. The disease poses no threat to humans.

High-density deer herds may have higher mortality rates; however, the relationship of deer density to the severity of EHD is not clear cut.

Spread of the disease normally stops when the first frost of autumn kills the infecting midges.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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