Friday, August 31, 2007

MAINE NEWS: Combatting Deer Overpopulation in Maine Wildlife Park

Oh, deer!

The four whitetail bucks at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray may get vasectomies to keep the population in check, and not everyone is happy about it.

Friends of Maine Wildlife Park, a group of park volunteers, say sterilizing the bucks would permanently prevent the park's does from having fawns, meaning the public would not be able to watch does care for their young.

But Lisa Kane, who supervises the wildlife park for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said allowing overcrowding in the deer pen does not teach the public about responsible game management.

The park, which treats injured wildlife for eventual release, currently has 20 deer in a three-acre enclosure at the park. Animals that can't be released are kept to educate the public about wildlife.

"The mission of the park is to house unreleasable wildlife for the public to learn from and enjoy," Kane said. "The mission of the park is not to breed animals in captivity, particularly whitetail deer."

Joe Jones, president of the park friends group, agrees that 20 deer is excessive, but he worries about the impact of the change on the public.

"I am upset because people love to see the babies. That is the biggest reason they come to the park, to see the babies," Jones said. "If they had done the proper thing, reduced the herd early last spring, they wouldn't have any problems."

Kane said there will always be fawns at the park, because orphaned fawns end up there virtually every spring.

In the past, the park has tranquilized and moved year-old deer to the wild, but park officials say this is not the most humane approach to thinning the herd. Park Superintendent Curtis Johnson said the method is expensive, time-consuming and does not guarantee the survival of the released deer.

"Darting animals is not a precise science. It never produces the same result," Johnson said. "I think it is better to go with a one- time technique."

A vasectomy does not affect a buck's ability to go through typical mating behavior, a fall ritual that the public does not view because the park is closed.

Vasectomies are a common practice for controlling deer numbers at many zoos, said wildlife department veterinarian Russell Danner.

"It's one possibility. The Milwaukee County Zoo had used vasectomies for 10 years, and it worked quite successfully," Danner said.

If newborn fawns are needed to fill out the herd in the future, the sterilizations would not be a problem because a doe can produce two fawns, and a doe several months old is capable of breeding, he said.

The department is also considering a vaccine for does that would prevent their eggs from fertilizing. Danner said that vaccination would be needed once a year.

Although Kane said the cost of vasectomies was not prohibitive, Johnson and Danner both said it could be.

"There is the cost of the anesthesia, and if a surgeon is going to charge or volunteer their time," Danner said. "I want to find the person most skilled who is willing to do the job. That may or may not be me. My job is as a fish pathologist. Maybe there is someone more qualified."

Danner said the cost could be as low as $200 per animal, but Johnson said vasectomies for the four bucks could cost a few thousand dollars, depending on the fee.

The park's annual budget is about $500,000, and its revenue comes from gate fees and interest accrued from a dedicated fund, Johnson said.

Simply feeding the 20 whitetail deer in the park now costs several thousand dollars a year, because of the cost of grain that is used to supplement the browse that has been depleted by the herd, he said.

The decision on vasectomies has to be made by fall, Kane said.

Danner doesn't want to rush it.

"That wildlife park has been around for 50 years," he said.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

EASTERN US NEWS: Epizoontic Hemorrahagic Disease Outbreaks In Six States

Wildlife officials in at least six states, including Kentucky, report people are finding considerable numbers of dead deer. Apparently the deaths are being caused by an outbreak of a deadly virus.

The virus, called EHD (epizootic hemorrhagic disease), seems to occur every few years in white-tailed deer, and is not infectious to humans. However, it may mean hunters in some areas will see fewer deer during the upcoming hunting seasons.

People in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have been finding dead deer or animals in a weakened and emaciated state near water.


INDIANA - A viral disease is taking a deadly aim at Perry County’s population of white-tailed deer just weeks before the start of the fall-hunting season.

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, often known as EHD, is normally not found in domestic animals and isn’t capable of being transmitted to humans. However, the disease often kills the white-tailed deer that it infects and could cause significant deer mortality in areas of southern Indiana.

“It’s likely that a good number of deer have been and will be lost,” said DNR deer management biologist Jim Mitchell.

Reports of dead deer have already been reported in several southern Indiana counties, including Perry and Spencer. State wildlife biologist Jeff Thompson, who is based at the Sugar Ridge Fish and Wildlife Area near Winslow and whose assigned area includes Perry County, said a deer from Pike County has tested positive for EHD. He is awaiting test results from another deer found south of Birdseye.

Thompson said the disease is likely present in other counties.

EHD is transmitted by small, biting flying insects called midges and is affecting deer earlier than in past years, including an outbreak in 2006 concentrated in west-central Indiana. While deer biologists do not expect the outbreak will cause significant deer mortality in areas where the disease hit last fall, due to residual immunity, the early start to this year’s outbreak may lead to significant numbers of deaths in southern Indiana.

Hot, dry conditions have boosted the midge population, making transmission of EHD more likely. “Last year was hot, but we also had a lot of rain,” Thompson said Wednesday. “This year we’ve had the heat but not much rain.”

EHD-infected animals have also been reported in Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio. The disease is common in Southern states but occurs less frequently in the Midwest.

EHD causes severe flu-like symptoms in the deer, including a high fever and infected deer often seek water in streams or ponds in an effort to cool off. Dead deer are sometimes found in or near water.

Sick deer may lose their appetite and become uncoordinated. As they become weaker and dehydrated, their mouth and eye tissues sometimes show a rosy or bluish color.

Thompson said infected deer often die within a week, though some animals will recover.


PENNSYLVANIA - HARRISBURG, Pa., Aug. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dr. Walter Cottrell, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, today announced that previously pending test results have confirmed that epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is causing mortality in deer in an expanded area of southwestern Pennsylvania.
Additionally, Dr. Cottrell noted that two samples from dead deer in Beaver County have been submitted to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia for testing, and residents with information about other dead deer found in this county and other counties surrounding the known positive cases are urged to contact the Southwest Region Office at 724- 238-9523.
Several hundred deer have been found dead in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene and Washington counties, and the deaths are consistent with EHD.
So far, EHD has been confirmed in Richhill, Gray, Morris, Aleppo, Jackson, Center, Waynesburg, Franklin, Wayne, Washington, Morgan, Whiteley, Greene and Jefferson townships in Greene County; and West Finley, East Finley, South Franklin, Morris Twps, Amwell, West Bethlehem, and Marianna in Washington County.
"While we want to continue to receive reports about dead deer in these townships, we also are very interested in hearing from those who find dead deer in other townships," Cottrell said. "As tissue samples must be extracted within 24 hours of death to be suitable for conducting tests, it is important that we hear from residents as soon as possible.