Deadly deer disease could impact hunting season
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 cwd-info.org.