Deadly deer dis­ease could im­pact hunt­ing sea­son

The Commercial Appeal - - Front Page -

NASHVILLE — Thou­sands of deer died in 2007 across Ten­nessee af­ter be­ing stricken with epi­zootic hem­or­rhagic dis­ease.

Wildlife of­fi­cials are keep­ing an eye on the deer pop­u­la­tion again this year af­ter re­ceiv­ing re­ports of dead deer be­ing found in scat­tered ar­eas of the state.

Ten­nessee Wildlife Re­sources Agency of­fi­cials say hem­or­rhagic dis­ease, which is closely re­lated to the blue­tongue virus, oc­curs each year in the state. It comes in vary­ing lev­els, and based on the vol­ume of re­ports so far, it ap­pears to be above av­er­age in sever­ity this year.

Most of the re­ports have come from East Ten­nessee.

“So far the in­ten­sity of the out­break seems to be lo­cal­ized,” TWRA Wildlife Health Pro­gram leader Roger Ap­ple­gate said. “We don’t an­tic­i­pate this out­break to ri­val that of 2007, but it is still early and we’re ac­tively mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion.”

Archery deer hunt­ing sea­son opens in Ten­nessee in Septem­ber.

Hunters in Ten­nessee saw fewer deer in 2007 be­cause of the out­break of epi­zootic hem­or­rhagic dis­ease.

The deer har­vest in 2007 in Ten­nessee dropped 30 per­cent from 2006, when a record had been set at 174,937. It con­tin­ued to dip in 2008and in 2009. Hem­or­rhagic dis­ease is caused by a virus trans­mit­ted to deer from bit­ing midges. It is not trans­mit­ted from deer to deer by con­tact. It causes fever, res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress and swelling of the neck or tongue.

Not all deer ex­posed to the virus die, but those that do usu­ally do so within five to 10 days of ex­po­sure. The virus is ex­pected to last un­til the weather starts to cool by mid-Oc­to­ber.

Chronic wast­ing dis­ease also has plagued deer through­out the South but has not been de­tected in Ten­nessee. Some have con­fused epi­zootic hem­or­rhagic with chronic wast­ing dis­ease.

“Al­though some of the clin­i­cal symp­toms are sim­i­lar, it is im­por­tant to not con­fuse HD with chronic wast­ing dis­ease,” said James Kelly, TWRA Deer Man­age­ment Pro­gram leader. “Un­like CWD, HD is a virus and deer can sur­vive in­fec­tion. It comes and goes at vary­ing lev­els of sever­ity much like the flu does for hu­mans. CWD, on the other hand, is ac­tu­ally a much greater con­cern be­cause the causative agents known as pri­ons per­sist in the en­vi­ron­ment and in deer pop­u­la­tions in­def­i­nitely.”

State bi­ol­o­gists are mon­i­tor­ing both dis­eases. For more in­for­ma­tion on CWD, visit

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