Ohio Division of Wildlife officials seek help tracking deer disease
State wildlife officials are asking Ohioans to look out for and report when they encounter sick or dead deer in the coming weeks.
The Division of Wildlife is tracking epizootic hemorrhagic disease, which periodically hits the state during the late summer and early fall, particularly when the weather is hot and dry.
The disease doesn’t harm humans, and the only native Ohio species it affects is white-tailed deer.
The virus that causes the disease is spread by midges, the tiny biting flies, also called “no-see-ums,” that are the bane of anyone who hikes, fishes, hunts or camps.
A deer infected with the virus can be lethargic; have a swollen tongue, head and neck; lose its fear of humans and have trouble breathing. Many deer die within 36 hours of showing symptoms, and they often are found in or near bodies of water.
The state especially wants to know when several deer become sick or die in a specific area, said Jamey Emmert, spokeswoman for the Division of Wildlife.
Sightings may be reported at OhioDNR.gov or to a local state wildlife officer or wildlife district office.
So far, the Division of Wildlife has confirmed a case of the disease in Allen County in northwestern Ohio, said Michael Tonkovich, the state’s deer program administrator.
Another area with a possible outbreak is Hamilton County, in the southwestern corner of the state, where residents have reported smelling rotting deer, but wildlife officials haven’t been able to get a sample they can test for the virus.
“By the time you smell it or see vultures flying overhead, it’s too late,” Tonkovich said.
Other counties where possibly infected deer have been spotted include: Summit, Portage, Mahoning, Lorain, Franklin, Auglaize, Brown, Butler, Clermont, Highland, and Montgomery.
There’s no way to contain and treat infected deer in the wild. The disease eventually goes away when cold weather kills the midges.
“If someone sees a sick deer, especially several sick, skinny, disoriented deer, it’s probably EHD,” Emmert said. “While there’s no research that says there’s anything wrong with the meat, we caution hunters to avoid harvesting that meat.”
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