Written by The Herald-News
An outbreak of disease has again impacted white-tailed deer numbers in some areas of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Region 6, state wildlife officials say.
Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, commonly known as EHD, has been confirmed through laboratory examinations of tissue taken from several deceased white-tailed deer in the Havre area, said Region 6 wildlife program manager Mark Sullivan.
The affected area where whitetails were reported dead earlier this fall ranges primarily west of Harlem and essentially covers the western third of Region 6, Sullivan said. Other widespread EHD outbreaks have also recently been confirmed in several other areas of the state, including FWP Region 4 to the south and west.
EHD is an acute, infectious, often-fatal viral disease of some wild ruminants, especially white-tailed deer. The disease, characterized by extensive hemorrhaging, fever and a resultant urge to be near or even immersed in temperature-controlling water, has been responsible for significant die-offs over the years in the northern United States and southern Canada.
A major EHD outbreak also took place in FWP Region 6 in 2011 and was primarily centered in the Glasgow area along the Milk River where white-tailed deer numbers had been at record highs.
A similar hemorrhagic disease commonly called bluetongue also occurs throughout the U.S. and Canada, but the two diseases are clinically different. Both diseases can affect mule deer and pronghorn antelope, but not as much as white-tailed deer.
Outbreaks of EHD most commonly occur during the summer and early fall, and animals contracting highly virulent strains can die as quickly as one to three days after exposure. The disease is spread by tiny biting midges, but hard frosts kill the insects and end the outbreaks, at least for the year.
“When the insect activity slowed down with the cooler weather, apparent EHD-caused deaths started decreasing,” Sullivan said, adding that a few scattered reports of dead whitetails also came in from the Glasgow and Malta areas earlier this fall.
“However, we weren’t able to take samples from those animals because they were too decomposed by the time they were discovered,” he said. “The reports were also very few in number.”
Sullivan noted that whitetail numbers in the Glasgow area are still recovering from a series of harsh winters and the 2011 EHD outbreak. Deer hunters should take note and plan accordingly.
“Whitetail numbers remain good in the northeastern portion of Region 6,” he said. “No EHD was reported there in 2011 or this year.”