There have been uncorroborated reports of EHD — short for epizootic hemorrhagic disease — in southwest North Dakota deer this fall, but the Game and Fish Department’s veterinarian said he hasn’t encountered or heard of any wide scale die-offs.
“My guess would be (the reports are) speculation because I’ve not heard much,” Dr. Dan Grove said. “We’ve gotten a few random reports of dead deer here and there, but not typical of EHD. So me personally, I can’t verify because we haven’t confirmed EHD.”
Spread by a biting midge, EHD is a naturally occurring virus that is almost always fatal to infected whitetails; mule deer seem to be less susceptible to the disease. The midge is most prevalent in hot, humid weather, and the southwest has been too dry to create the kind of conditions that typically trigger outbreaks, Grove said.
Infected animals typically head for water to alleviate the fever and thirst EHD causes. The department has conducted necropsy tests on a handful of dead deer late this summer, and none have tested positive for EHD, Grove said.
EHD outbreaks usually occur from early to mid August until the first frost.
“There might be individual cases of it,” Grove said in a phone interview. “The reality is, you know, the conditions this year weren’t really right for it, but that’s not to say — the midge are always around … but in terms of a large-scale, I’ve not been aware of anything at this point in time.”
EHD caused a large scale die-off in 2011 in southwest North Dakota, and a smaller outbreak occurred in 2013, Grove said. One property during the 2011 outbreak had 40 dead deer, he said.
Grove said he hasn’t heard any of any EHD reports from Montana or South Dakota, either.
“Usually we’re starting to hear reports from them if there is something going on, too,” he said.
Because deer numbers are so low, EHD cases this year likely will be less obvious, Grove said.
“It’s probably going to be a random one here and there,” he said. “We’re not going to have that where there’s large groups of deer congregated together and you’re going to see a bunch of dead ones on a single property.”
Grove said the department likes to hear from hunters or anyone else who comes across dead deer, and with more people outdoors as hunting seasons hit full swing, reports likely will increase.
“We like to get those reports, too, so we’re aware of it,” Grove said. “It kind of gives us an idea of what’s going on with the population as a whole because (EHD) can kill a lot of animals fairly quickly.”
Interactive Minnesota deer map
If you hunt deer in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources now offers an interactive deer permit area map with detailed information on every deer permit area in the state. The maps include a rundown on deer populations in each of the permit areas, along with information about public lands and past harvest statistics.
As an example, Deer Permit Area 261 near East Grand Forks covers 795 square miles, and 88 percent of the land cover consists of annual row crops. Woody cover comprises 3 percent of the permit area, and grasslands and wetlands are found on 1 percent of the land.
Last year, hunters in 261 harvested 414 deer during the firearms, archery and muzzleloaders seasons for a success rate of 32 percent.
I’m a nerd when it comes to these kinds of maps and survey reports, and I could spend hours looking at the details on each of the permit areas. The maps are a great tool for hunters looking to explore new areas or to learn more about the areas they already hunt. Very cool!
Minnesota’s firearms deer season opens Saturday, Nov. 4, and North Dakota’s deer gun season opens at noon Friday, Nov. 10.