Tennessee WRA Confirms Deer Dying of EHD

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Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) offices are receiving reports of dead deer in many areas of the state. The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia in Athens has analyzed samples from these deer. The diagnosis is no surprise. Testing has confirmed that the deer are dying of EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease).

EHD is no surprise because it occurs regularly in Tennessee, according to TWRA officials. Some years there is virtually no sign of EHD, and others, like this year, it seems to be everywhere. Reports to TWRA offices indicate mortality of deer in at least 30 counties with more expected as the season progresses.

"What makes this year a little alarming is that the reports started coming in early August, several weeks earlier than usual," said Daryl Ratajczak, TWRA Big Game Coordinator

"We most often start getting the dead deer reports in the last week of August and first part of September," said Roger Applegate, TWRA Wildlife Disease Coordinator. "However, the most important thing for hunters, landowners, and the public to know is that this is a regular and natural event that routinely afflicts white-tailed deer and that it is not transmissible to humans or any other animals. The public also need not be overly concerned about the fate of the deer because any reduction in deer numbers in a local area will easily be made up within a couple of years."

White-tailed deer have adapted to EHD. Does that survive an infection of the EHD virus will pass along immunity to their fawns and foster an increase in immunity for several years before another die-off occurs.

The EHD disease cycle begins with the virus being transmitted to deer by a midge; a small biting fly that humans recognize as "no-seeums." The virus causes depression, fever, respiratory distress, and swelling of the neck or tongue. Those deer that survive these ills may slowly lose appetite and/or become lame which could last for several weeks before the deer die or shake off the disease.

"Due to the already stressful conditions caused by the drought, we can expect to see die-offs as high as 40 percent in some highly localized areas," said Applegate.

"Although it is unfortunate, EHD die-offs are part of a completely natural cycle that has been occurring for eons. The deer obviously deal with it, we must deal with it as well," said Ratajczak.