For deer, the drought has become a life or death proposition; real survival of the fittest … but even some of the fittest could still perish.
Spanning from the ash-filled forests in Colorado to the cracked topsoil in Iowa, the drought of 2012 is creating exasperating repercussions for wildlife, which can result in disease and death that could grow at an alarming rate.
“The situation is ripe for a catastrophic case of EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease),” said Mark Drury, host of Drury Outdoors Wildlife Obsession. “Nature is going to take its course, and I fear what the outcome will be.”
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EHD is spread through tiny flies, known as midges, and it is fatal to deer. The disease causes hemorrhages and extreme weakness, leaving the deer in a shock-like state until death.
It annually affects the deer population in certain areas, and Drury believes this year will be much worse due to the most extreme drought America has seen since 1956.
Drury posted a photo on the Drury Outdoors Facebook page of a mature buck decaying in a creek near his southern Iowa farm. It read, “like if you DISLIKE this nasty disease.”
So far, the post received more than 200 comments, 3,300 likes and 74 shares. Hunters from across the nation weighed in on the subject, telling of past EHD outbreaks and of their recent discovery of dead deer near them.
While Ralph Cianciarulo of Archers Choice said he’s also worried about an EHD outbreak, “also affected by the drought is antler growth.”
With the drought removing nutrients from food sources, and some drying up, deer will grow weaker and sport smaller antlers, affecting hunters looking for a big buck and leaving the deer more susceptible to death in the coming winter.
With a lack of rainfall, water sources have dried up. The fewer water sources imposes another issue. And it seems that some are growing desperate.
“I just saw a deer drinking out of my cattle trough,” Cianciarulo said while riding around his farm in northern Illinois. “And it’s 10 a.m. and 92 degrees.”
Cianciarulo said that all it takes to help is setting up something like a 55-gallon drum filled with water.
“If the deer or elk don’t have water, they’re going to go somewhere they know they can find it,” he said. “Try to keep a water source around and you’ll help your animals get through this drought.”
Drury painted a nightmarish scene of the current state of farms, serving as a microcosm to other farms across the nation.
“My crops are nonexistent,” said Drury. “I’ve lost my corn crop, and beans are 50-50 right now.”
Cianciarulo agreed. “The ground is dry and cracked,” he said
With such conditions, deer will search their habitat, and even outside their normal range, for the small areas left with both water and food, increasing the chances that EHD could spread.