Disease May Be Killing New York Deer at an Alarming Rate
New York State deer hunting season in the Northern Zone began the second week of September and will run through the end of January. According to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the 2020 deer harvest was more than 253,000 white tail deer, a 13% increase over 2019. Those are exciting numbers for the field sports community. Hunters and guides have been scouting the woods since the summer months, planning for their big game opportunities and maybe a shot at that deer of a lifetime.
However, these expeditions have produced some alarming discoveries in the early months of the fall. According to an article by Bill Connor of the Poughkeepsie Journal, in 2020 "there were between 1,400 and 1,500 reports of deer being found dead in the woods" from causes other than hunting related injuries. As of Thursday, since August, the Cornell University's Wildlife Health Lab reports there have been 2039 deer carcasses observed. That is a 25% increase with nearly 2 months to go in 2021.
What is killing the white-tail deer and why is it getting worse? According to Bill Connor's report, the culprit may be "Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD." Though Connor said, "Without testing each and every carcass, it’s difficult to know exactly how many were brought down by EHD, but there isn’t much doubt the disease took its toll." Connor observed and the Cornell University report verified that the disease is effecting a wider area, especially moving into western New York State.
Hunters or hikers that come across a deer carcass that appear to be a result of unknown causes are asked to report the find and the location to the NYSDEC. Signs of EHD may be foaming around the mouth and nose area. The Cornell University report notes "EHD virus is an often-fatal disease of deer that is transmitted by biting midges, small bugs often called no-see-ums or 'punkies.' The disease is not spread from deer to deer and humans cannot be infected by deer or bites from midges."
"Once infected with EHD, deer usually die within 36 hours. EHD outbreaks occur sporadically and deer in New York have little immunity to this virus. Consequently, most EHD-infected deer in New York are expected to die. In the north, the first hard frost kills the midges that transmit the disease, ending the EHD outbreak. The EHD virus was first confirmed in New York in 2007 with relatively small outbreaks in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara counties, and in Rockland County in 2011."
As always, New York State hunters are encouraged to do their part in reporting all carcass finds and locations to the DEC. The more information gathered, the better the chances of ending the spread of EHD.