Small Die-off of White Tailed Deer

FRANKLIN, Conn. (WTNH) — Since early September, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has documented more than 50 white-tailed deer exhibiting symptoms associated with Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHDV-6).

Although the virus has also been detected in other mammals, including mule deer, elk, and domestic cattle, white-tailed deer represent 95% of the affected animals.

“We’ve never documented Hemorrhagic Disease in Connecticut prior to this year,” said Wildlife Biologist Andrew LaBonte.

The affected deer appear to be primarily in Middletown and Portland, with a few in Chester, Haddam, and Lyme.

deer 2 Small Die off of White Tailed Deer
(Photo: Tina Detelj/WTNH)

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease often occurs in drought conditions.

“When the mud flats are exposed these midges emerge,” said LaBonte.

EHDV-6 is transmitted to deer by the tiny biting flies or midges also known as No See Ums. Once infected, the disease progresses rapidly with deer exhibiting symptoms that include swollen head, neck, tongue, or eyelids with a bloody discharge from the nasal cavity, and hemorrhaging of the heart and lungs followed by death within three to five days.

The virus also creates high feverish conditions causing infected deer to seek out water sources.

“Often they’re found right along the edge of the water or in many cases we’ve documented they’re immersed in the water themselves floating in the water,” said LaBonte.

DEEP first learned of a dozen dead deer in the Portland/Middletown area from a concerned hunter. The reported deer were in various stages of decay with some lying along the river bank, while others were floating in the water near the Connecticut River.

deer 1 Small Die off of White Tailed Deer
(Photo: Tina Detelj/WTNH)

DEEP says concern over hemorrhagic disease should not limit hunter willingness to harvest deer during the hunting season. The disease does not infect humans, and people are not at risk by eating venison from or handling infected deer, or by being bitten by infected midges.

“There’s not really any concern as far as consumption of the animal,” said Labonte.

DEEP is encouraging anyone who observes deer appearing emaciated, behaving strangely, or lying dead along the edge of water to report it, along with the closest address, to DEEP’s 24-hour Emergency Dispatch Center at 860-424-3333, the DEEP Wildlife Division at 860-418-5921, or send an email to Andrew.labonte@ct.gov.

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