LARAMIE – Hunters are alerted to an increased chance of encountering dead pronghorn or white-tailed deer this fall due to a fairly widespread outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease across the Cowboy State.
The Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory first confirmed the fatal viral disease in a white-tailed deer from eastern Big Horn Basin in August. Since then carcasses of pronghorn and white-tailed deer from Campbell, Carbon, Hot Springs, Johnson, Park and Sweetwater counties have also tested positive.
“The occurance of EHDV in Wyoming is not unusual.” said Terry Creekmore, wildlife disease specialist for the Game and Fish Department. “Hemorrhagic disease, either epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus, bluetongue virus or both, is cyclic in nature and in most years there are one or more localized areas of disease in Wyoming. The confirmation of epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus in seven counties, while not alarming, is somewhat unusual and mirrors what has been seen in Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana this year.”
The EHD virus is spread by biting gnats and can also infect elk and mule deer, although it has not been detected in those species this year. Infected big game animals suffer loss of appetite, extreme weakness, dribbling of bloody urine and feces and finally hemorrhaging organs. Infected animals usually die in late summer and early fall, often near water. The disease is similar to blue tongue, which has not been detected in Wyoming wildlife this year. Neither of these hemorrhagic disease viruses are communicable to humans.
Creekmore says the onset of cooler temperatures will result in the cessation of virus transmission at which point mortalities will cease.
The virus endures winter in midge larvae which overwinter in wet or muddy areas.
Although it is certain many more pronghorn and white-tailed deer have succumbed to the disease than have been tested, Game and Fish biologists do not believe the outbreak will significantly impact herds, although hunters could experience fewer white-tailed deer or pronghorns in specific locations.
Hunters may also have more chance of discovering a dead raptor this fall. Wyoming has experienced a moderate uptick in birds testing positive for West Nile virus this summer. Species testing positive include sage grouse, golden eagle, Swainson’s hawk and American crow. Birds with the disease have been submitted to the state veterinary laboratory from Albany, Campbell, Carbon and Natrona counties.