Clearwater Deer Season Busy Despite Die-off

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Because of favorable conditions for deer and elk last winter, the Idaho Fish and Game Department expects another busy big game hunting season in the Clearwater Region.

Most general seasons in the region opened October 10. As in previous years, Fish and Game is collecting data on harvested big game animals at the Kooskia and Mt. Idaho check stations this fall. Prospects for hunters are expected to be similar to the past few years in most areas.

Although Fish and Game shares the concerns of many hunters regarding the recent outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in parts of the region, 90 percent of the land area in the Clearwater Region has not been affected by EHD.

EHD virus resides in a small portion of the deer population. It is spread from deer to deer by Culicoides gnats. Deer numbers in unaffected areas of the region remain healthy and robust. Hunters are encouraged to explore new areas if their favorite hunting grounds have been affected by EHD. Additionally, snowfall will cause deer at higher elevations (likely unaffected by EHD) to move to portions of the affected areas at a time when there will be no risk for further losses.

The areas affected the most include lower elevations along the Clearwater River drainage from Harpster downstream to Kamiah, with patchy outbreaks occurring in Kendrick, Peck, Orofino, and Grangeville, and along the Salmon River near Whitebird and Riggins.

The spread of the disease appears to be losing steam. Reports of mortalities have recently become less frequent, as have the reports of newly affected areas. It is likely that the cool weather killed off gnats, slowing the spread of the disease. Fish and Game will continue to monitor the status of the outbreak, but a hard frost will halt the spread entirely for this year.

Hunters are advised to take extra time to scout before hunting season if their hunting area is near or within one of the outbreak areas. Although EHD does not pose a threat to humans, the department also advises hunters to always pass on shots at animals that appear to be sick or disoriented.