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EHD Killing Deer

Missouri, Wisconsin suffer outbreaks; CWD hits Iowa hunting lodge

By: Steve Rogers, OutdoorChannel.com

Wildlife officials in Wisconsin and Missouri are blaming a growing number of dead deer on an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources has reached an agreement with the owner of a hunting preserve to depopulate the facility of all deer and elk over the next several months following the state’s first positive detection of chronic wasting disease there.

As of mid-September, the Missouri Department of Conservation had received reports of approximately 2,800 dead deer from throughout most of the state, with EHD being the suspected cause. Osage County has been hit the hardest with 193 reported dead deer. Other counties with high counts are Benton with 116, Randolph with 107, Morgan with 92, Clay with 81, Monroe with 80 and Texas with 75. Reports within these counties tend to be localized to specific areas, and the MDC has received few if any reports from counties in the southeast part of the state.

Deer and livestock can contract EHD from midge flies at or near stagnant water holes, and the disease of often fatal. The outbreaks tend to be worse during times of heavy drought, and Missouri was one of the hardest-hit states in this summer’s drought – one of the most extensive on record.

"Significant outbreaks have mainly happened during droughts, with past ones being in 1980, 1988, 1998 and 2007," said Emily Flinn, a deer biologist with MDC. "Outbreaks tend to occur in larger numbers during droughts because deer, and the biting flies, congregate near the fewer water spots. This increases the likelihood of the disease spreading. Freezing temperatures will mean an end to the biting fly and the disease outbreak.”

According to MDC's deer harvest summary for 2011-2012, hunters harvested almost 291,600 deer during last year's deer hunting seasons.

Flinn said there will be local impacts this hunting season, but the overall hunting outlook remains good, and deer numbers in impacted areas should rebound pretty quickly.

"However, if local deer populations have been significantly decreased due to HD, reduced harvest pressure on does will help the local population to recover," she said.

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources have confirmed that tissue samples submitted from deer found dead in Columbia and Rock counties have tested positive for EHD.

Citizens in southern Wisconsin had contacted the Department of Natural Resources after small groups of dead deer were discovered. DNR wildlife health specialists submitted the tissue samples to Michigan State University’s Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, which confirmed the deer died of EHD.

“Our neighbor states have been seeing EHD outbreaks for the last several weeks, and now it has made its way into southern Wisconsin,” said Eric Lobner, DNR southern Wisconsin wildlife supervisor.

According to the state’s DNR, the last EHD observation in Wisconsin was in 2002 when 14 deer died from the virus in Iowa County.

Those observing sick deer in Wisconsin are asked to the state’s DNR call center at 1-888-WDNR-INFO (1-888-936-7463), e-mail DNRinfo@Wisconsin.gov  or use the chat feature on the DNR website.

Other states have also reported hemorrhagic disease this year, including Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Montana, Utah, Georgia, Florida, Delaware and North Carolina.

In Davis County, Iowa, the owners of Pine Ridge Hunting Lodge signed an agreement with the state’s Department of Natural Resources with hopes of preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in deer and elk outside the 330-acre facility.

“We are very pleased with agreement and we want to commend the owners for working with us in taking this important step needed to help contain the spreading of CWD,” said Chuck Gipp, director of the Iowa DNR.

CWD is a transmissible neurological disease of deer, elk and moose that produces small lesions in brains of infected animals. It is characterized by loss of body condition, behavioral abnormalities and death, and it is similar to mad cow disease.

Under terms of the agreement to depopulate the facility, Pine Ridge Hunting Lodge will conduct hunts previously scheduled between Sept. 8 and Dec. 25. However, only antlers attached to a clean skull plate and the animal’s cape will be allowed to leave the facility and only after samples for CWD and DNA have been collected. Pine Ridge is required to provide 12-hour notice to the DNR once any animal has been harvested so that tissue samples can be collected.

Also under terms of the agreement, Pine Ridge will provide a refrigerated truck to store carcasses until tissues samples can be taken; the facility will pay for the CWD testing and the disposal of all animals; an electric fence inside the existing perimeter fence by the facility and the DNR; and an additional plan for Pine Ridge will be developed in conjunction with the DNR after the depopulation is completed.

After the first positive sample of the deer in Davis County was confirmed in July, both DNR and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship have worked to trace back deer that have moved to and from a Cerro Gordo County breeding facility. From this effort, five deer at a breeding facility in Pottawattamie County have been identified as having tested positive for CWD placing that operation under quarantine.

In addition, 14 deer from the breeding facility in Cerro Gordo County have been sampled for CWD with one yielding a positive result for CWD. The Cerro Gordo facility is also currently under quarantine, meaning live animals are not allowed to come or go from the operation.

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