Thousands of deer are dying, and rifle season hasn't even started.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has announced that substantial numbers of deer in at least 29 counties in Michigan, none in the Upper Peninsula, have died this summer and fall due to epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).
DNR officials are asking hunters, other Michigan residents, and visitors to continue to report sightings of dead deer to the DNR.
These reports help with the DNR's efforts to monitor the outbreak of EHD in the Michigan this year. Officials expect to receive more reports as deer season approaches.
At present, just over 10,400 dead deer have been reported.
"We want to thank the many volunteers and hunters who have helped and continue to help monitor the outbreak of this disease," said Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason.
So far EHD has been recorded in Allegan, Arenac, Barry, Benzie, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Clare, Clinton, Eaton, Genesee, Gratiot, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Isabella, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Kent, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Mason, Mecosta, Monroe, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oakland, Osceola, Ottawa, Presque Isle, Saginaw, Shiawassee, St. Joseph, Van Buren, Washtenaw and Wayne counties.
The DNR's Wildlife Division is recording reports of dead deer in order to answer questions from the public and prepare informed hunting season recommendations for 2013.
The department will be taking reports of dead deer that are likely EHD-related until Jan. 1.
"Some people may have the perception that, once we have confirmed the presence of EHD in an area, we are no longer interested in additional reports of dead deer in those areas - that is not true. We want the reports," Mason said in a statement.
"Any and all reports, whether the deer seem to have died recently or not so recently, will help ensure we have accurate information about the extent of die-offs," he said.
To report the presence of dead deer, the DNR encourages residents to contact their nearest Wildlife Office (information on Wildlife Offices is available at www.michigan.gov/wildlife, under Contact Information) or fill out the online Report Diseased Wildlife form.
EHD is caused by a virus that is transmitted by a type of biting fly called a midge. A constant characteristic of the disease is its sudden onset. Deer can suffer extensive internal bleeding, lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, salivate excessively and finally become unconscious.
Due to a high fever, infected deer often are found sick or dead along or in bodies of water.
Below the DNR lists some frequently asked questions about the disease.
- What is EHD? Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is an acute, infectious, viral disease found in wild ruminants like white-tailed deer.
- Can humans get EHD? EHD does not affect humans so edibility of the venison is not impacted by this disease. There is no evidence that humans can contract the EHD virus either from the midge or from handling and eating venison.
- Where has EHD been found? EHD has been present in the United States for over 50 years now and no long-term effects on any deer herd have been recorded. Where EHD is more common, deer have built up antibodies to the disease. Michigan deer do not have the benefit of these antibodies. Losses may be severe, and while impacts on deer numbers are typically restricted to localized areas, recovery may take longer than has been experienced in other states. Large scale regional deer population decreases have not been observed. Die-offs attributed to EHD in Michigan have occurred periodically since 1955 in multiple counties including Allegan, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, Berrien, Cass, Ottawa, St Joseph and Van Buren Counties with an estimated total mortality of 2,150 deer. There is an outbreak on-going currently in Michigan.
- How do deer get EHD? A deer must be bitten by a midge carrying the virus to become infected. A midge can carry the virus to other deer after it has bitten an infected live animal. The disease is not transmitted directly from one deer to another but must go through the insect vector, in this case a midge species, Culicoides variipennis. The midges cannot survive frost and die in autumn. Because of this, the disease appears during late summer and early fall (August-October) and ceases abruptly with the onset of frost.
- Can my livestock get EHD? EHD can infect domestic animals - most commonly hoof stock, but rarely causes any disease.
- What are the symptoms of EHD? The disease has a sudden onset. White-tailed deer develop signs of illness about 7 days after exposure. Symptoms of the disease include; loss of appetite and fear of man, weakness, excessive salivation, rapid pulse and respiration rates, fever and unconsciousness. Dead deer are usually found near bodies of water as they use streams, rivers and lakes as places to cool themselves down from the fever. Eight to 36 hours following the onset of observable signs, deer pass into a shock-like state, lay down and die.
- What will EHD do to my local deer herd? Because of its very high mortality rate, EHD can have a significant effect upon a local deer population, reducing numbers drastically. However, large scale decreases on entire populations (statewide) have not been observed. EHD has been present in the United States for over 50 years now and no long-term effects on any deer herd have been recorded.
- What should I do if I find a dead deer on my property I suspect has died from EHD? If you find a dead deer you suspect has died from EHD, you should contact your nearest DNR office and report it. The DNR is collecting data where EHD outbreaks have occurred and to what extent the die-offs are happening.
- What can I do with the carcass? If you find a dead deer on your property you can either: let nature take its course and allow the carcass to decompose naturally or you can dispose of the carcass by burying it at a sufficient depth so that body parts are not showing.