Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Ed. note: It seems likely that climate change will continue to push EHD north, and these types of outbreaks should become increasingly common in the next 10-15 years.

Deer continue to fall victim to an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in some parts of the state, and even the animals that are not killed are likely to suffer permanent damage if infected by the virus.

The state Division of Fish and Wildlife yesterday released an update on the EHD breakout first publicized two weeks ago, about two weeks after biologists began studying reports of sick and dying deer.

The first outbreak, investigated Sept. 7, involved 15 dead deer discovered by hunters in Hillsborough Township. Yesterday, Fish and Wildlife reported eight more dead deer were found during a Sept. 12 search along Royce Brook, described as being the main drainage area for the 500-acre tract where the first group was found.

Seven days later, scientists confirmed the deer died from EHD, a nasty illness that causes high fevers and hemorrhages in the mouths, noses and eyes and can kill a deer in less than 10 days. The virus is spread by small, biting flies called midges. It does not affect humans, but hunters should not consider eating meat from any deer that appears unhealthy.

Fish and Wildlife said the Sept. 19 diagnosis showed the deer died from the serotype 2 EHD virus. "This is the first time serotype 2 EHD has been found in New Jersey," it said.

All prior New Jersey outbreaks of EHD -- in 1955 in the Passaic River drainage area, in 1975 in the Paulinskill and Pequest River drainage areas and in 1999 in the Salem and Rancocas River drainages -- were caused by the serotype 1 EHD virus.

"Serotype 2 is commonly isolated from deer in Southern Florida, Texas and Mexico," said the division. It said deer from those areas seem to have developed a resistance to type 2 which is actually a bit less virulent than type 1.

The Sept. 12 discovery was not the last. Five days later, hunters found 12 dead deer along Cumberland County's Manantico River. Biologists investigating the scene found two additional deer carcasses and heard reports of six others in Pittsgrove Township.

On Sunday, canoeists reported seeing about 15 dead deer on the Mullica River in Wharton State Park near Hammonton and Shamong. "The carcasses were reportedly found by smell," noted Fish and Wildlife, which said the animals are now being tested for EHD.

Biologists believe the midges that are causing EHD are hatching from drying mud flats, a situation exacerbated by the current spell of hot and dry weather. New Jersey's deer are not alone in dealing with the disease this year as outbreaks are being reported in Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, New York and elsewhere.

It will take a good frost to kill the insects that are spreading the virus. Meanwhile, anybody coming across sick or dead deer should call Fish and Wildlife's Office of Fish and Wildlife Health and Forensics at (908) 735-6398.


1 comment:

John said...

That's disturbing.