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Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease is Hitting Deer Hard at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge
Midwest Region, October 26, 2012
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EHD infected deer suffer from dehydration and high fever which causes them to seek water.  Consequently, most dead deer were found near the edges of rivers, ditches, and marshes.
EHD infected deer suffer from dehydration and high fever which causes them to seek water. Consequently, most dead deer were found near the edges of rivers, ditches, and marshes. - Photo Credit: Eric M. Dunton/USFWS
The white-tailed deer is a highly valued component of the refuge’s fauna.
The white-tailed deer is a highly valued component of the refuge’s fauna. - Photo Credit: Kim Le Blanc

An outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) killed 107 white-tailed deer at Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge during September and October 2012. These deaths were part of an outbreak that killed more than 11,000 deer across the Southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. The severe drought of 2012 magnified the disease and helped to produce outbreaks from Ohio to Montana.

EHD is an acute, infectious, viral disease. It is transmitted from deer to deer through the bite of a midge in the genus Cuciloides. There is no known effective treatment or control for EHD. The outbreak appears to be over for the year at the refuge. The midge cannot survive frost which the refuge received in early October. The number of dead deer found has dropped off dramatically since then.

EHD was first detected in North America in the 1890s. Die-offs attributed to EHD in Michigan have occurred periodically since 1955. Large scale regional deer population decreases have not been observed. However, because of its very high mortality rate, EHD can have a significant effect upon the deer population in a localized area. Still, deer populations typically recover within a few years following EHD die-offs.The effect of EHD on the refuge deer population so far is undetermined. The refuge is encouraged that staff and visitors still see numerous deer. Consequently, there is no plan to adjust or cancel the refuge deer hunt this year. The impact will be more thoroughly understood when the Michigan Department of Natural Resources conducts its annual aerial deer survey this winter.


Contact Info: Steve Kahl, 989-777-5930, steve_kahl@fws.gov



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