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EHD Suspected in Montana Deer Deaths

by | Oct 08, 2013
Over one hundred dead white-tailed deer have been reported in the west Missoula Valley, Montana, state wildlife officials say. Montana's Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) awaits lab results to determine the cause of death and asks the public to report observations of dead deer to help in determining the extent of the affected area.
FWP first responded to reports from local fishing guides and landowners who reported numerous dead deer in and along the Clark Fork River and fields near and downstream from Harper’s Bridge. Dead deer have also been found in the Mill Creek area northeast of Frenchtown.
FWP biologists and wardens had accounted for 103 dead deer, with deer still dying and more dead deer undetected.
“The deer may show no outward symptoms of disease,” said Vickie Edwards, FWP wildlife biologist in Missoula. “People are seeing healthy looking deer fall over dead.”
FWP personnel have collected lung, spleen and blood samples from a number of affected deer and await the results of laboratory analysis to determine the cause of the death. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is a potential culprit.
EHD is transmitted by a biting midge, or gnat, and generally strikes in late summer and early fall. The disease event typically ends within a couple weeks of the first hard frost.
“Hemorrhagic disease viruses are not contagious from one animal to another and are not transmissible to humans,” said Jennifer Ramsey, FWP Wildlife Veterinarian in Bozeman. “Transmission is only known to occur through the bite of the gnat.”
EHD can be manifested as just a few cases, or as a severe outbreak with a very high mortality rate. In Montana, EHD has historically only been reported east of the Continental Divide.
This calamity comes on the heels of another which took place in New Mexico, where that state's Department of Game and Fish investigates the deaths of more than 100 elk discovered in northeastern New Mexico.
Department biologists traveled to the area in Game Management Unit 46 north of Las Vegas after the die-off was reported. The biologists found at least 100 dead elk in a ½- to ¾-mile area within the same 24-hour period. Tissue samples and water samples from the area were taken and delivered to the state Veterinary Diagnostic Services laboratory for analysis.
“At this time we’re looking into all possible causes, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease,” said Kerry Mower, the Department’s wildlife disease specialist. “What we do know from aerial surveys is that the die-off appears to be confined to a relatively small area, and that the elk were not shot by poachers.”
EHD poses no threat to humans.
—courtesy Montana FWP and New Mexico DGF

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