Virus Takes More Whitetails

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A gnat-borne virus continues to kill whitetail deer around the Kamiah area in an outbreak that may continue until the first hard frost kills the insects.

Wildlife veterinarian Mark Drew said the initial diagnosis of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) had been confirmed August 18 by the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study based in Athens, Georgia. The organization is considered the "guru" in wildlife health research when it comes to this and allied wildlife diseases. Several wildlife health labs received tissue samples from Idaho Fish and Game soon after the outbreak was reported in the Clearwater Region.

Drew said the number of deer killed in the outbreak is impossible to estimate accurately but is likely several hundred. EHD has affected an area around Kamiah and has further spread up and downstream in the Clearwater River corridor recently.

The virus takes all ages of deer. Survivors become immune but the disease can return to an area once deer numbers are replenished with animals that lack immunity. The virus is confined to deer and does not affect humans, Drew said. Danger to cattle is slight; they rarely contract the disease and recover quickly when they are affected. There is no treatment for EHD.

State law dictates conditions for disposing of carcasses, Drew noted. Carcasses must be buried no closer than one-quarter mile to roads and water. They must be buried at least six feet deep.

Fish and Game crews have collected more than 100 carcasses, which are to be buried on public lands. Most carcasses will "melt into the landscape" fairly quickly where they are not located near human habitation, Drew said.