Disease in deer explained

Published 9:30 am Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Seeing or hearing reports of diseased deer can often be alarming. A district wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) office located in Prince Edward County aims to reassure hunters about the nature of this disease and what to do if they come across deer with these symptoms.

Katie Martin with the VDGIF said Hemorrhagic Disease, an ailment affecting deer in the Southwestern Virginia, including the counties of Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland, have been reported by people in the area.

Martin said there have been approximately 75 reports of deer with the disease as of mid-September this year. In 2014, a particularly bad year for Hemorrhagic Disease, Martin said sloughing or splitting hooves, a side effect, affected 9.4 percent of deer in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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“Deer infected with this can develop a very high fever, ulcers in their mouth, swelling around their head, neck, tongue and eyelids, and often will stop eating,” Martin said. “Hemorrhagic is not always fatal and many deer survive.”

She noted that deer with Hemorrhagic Disease will often rest near or in bodies of water to cool their internal temperature.

The VDGIF website cites that the disease has not been proven to be transmitted from deer to livestock, but the cause of the disease in deer—biting midges—can transmit the disease both to deer and some livestock.

The VDGIF website cited that hunters should not be afraid of catching the disease, but should avoid living or dead deer showing these symptoms.

“Humans are not at risk by handling infected deer, eating venison from infected deer, or being bitten by infected biting midges,” the website cited. “However, deer that develop bacterial infections or abscesses secondary to (Hemorrhagic Disease) may not be suitable for consumption.”

To report an incident of the disease or for any questions, visit www.dgif.virginia.gov/wildlife/diseases/hd/ or call (434) 392-9645.