Today, I am not writing about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a contagious neurological disease that is fatal to deer, including deer, elk and moose. It attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to exhibit abnormal behavior, become emaciated and eventually die. Infected deer can spread infectious agents through urine, feces, saliva, etc. for months before showing clinical symptoms.
Fortunately, no CWD infected deer have yet been found in Massachusetts, possibly due to some restrictions on the movement of deer and deer parts that have been put in place. For example, if you hunt deer outside of Massachusetts, it is illegal to import deer parts from Canadian states or provinces where CWD has been detected. So far, it has been detected in 26 states (as close as New York and Pennsylvania) and four Canadian provinces. It is legal to import boneless meat, clean skull caps, headless skins or a fixed taxidermy mount.
There is a whole section on the MassWildlife website that deals with this disease.
No, today I am writing about another disease: epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).
Recently, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed a large outbreak of EHD in its white-tailed deer population, with reports of around 700 deaths. The EHD outbreak has been confirmed in seven New York counties, some of them not too far from Berkshire County, such as Columbia, Dutchess, Greene and Ulster counties. Wildlife officials are also investigating suspected cases of EHD in at least nine other counties, including Albany and Rensselaer counties.
According to wildlife officials, EHD is not transmitted from deer to deer, but is transmitted by biting midges, sometimes referred to as “no-see-ums”. They also believe that humans cannot be infected with EHD from deer or from the bites of midges. This is a terrible disease that affects deer because once infected they usually die within 36 hours. They have no immunity to the virus. Officials believe EHD outbreaks are more common in late summer and early fall, when midges are plentiful, although the first cases this year in New York City were detected in late July. DEC reports that the virus has been more prevalent this year than in previous outbreaks.
DEC reports that EHD does not have much long-term impact on white deer populations, but deer mortality can be significant in small areas. It is endemic to the southern states, which report annual outbreaks, so some southern deer have developed immunity.
According to the DEC, the virus was first confirmed in New York deer in 2007 in Albany, Rensselaer and Niagara counties. Another outbreak of EHD occurred in Rockland County in 2011. In 2020, a large outbreak of EHD occurred in the Lower Hudson Valley, centered in Putnam and Orange counties. , with approximately 1,500 deer deaths.
DEC is asking all New Yorkers to report sick or dead deer to DEC. Signs of EHD virus in deer include fever, hemorrhage of muscles or organs, and swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. A deer infected with EHD may appear lame or dehydrated, and deer infected with EHD often go to water sources and die nearby. Dead deer are not a source of EHD infection for other deer, animals or humans.
Hemorrhagic disease can lead to very high death rates and is considered the most important viral disease of white-tailed deer in the United States. There is currently no treatment for hemorrhagic diseases in wild animal populations. And, although characterized as infrequent in the North, the epidemics that do occur are known to be severe and likely to result in high mortality.
EHD is transmitted by biting flies or midges in the group called Culicoides. Midges are found near mud, which is their preferred breeding habitat. Outbreaks typically occur when deer congregate in moist areas in the driest part of late summer and early fall – when seasonal midgone activity is also at its peak. They end when the first hard frosts wreak havoc on the midges and the virus dies along with the insects.
Martin Feehan, Deer & Moose Biologist of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife (DFW) recently addressed this topic: “MassWildlife is conducting routine surveillance for diseases that could spread to wildlife in Massachusetts, and we are working with our partners. regional any epidemic. Our surveillance efforts include passive surveillance for EHD, however, there have never been any cases within the state. “
“We have been in regular communication this summer with our counterparts at DEC in New York regarding the EHD epidemic of 2021. The epidemic in New York is larger than in the past and includes counties adjacent to Massachusetts. We are unlikely to have cases at this point in the fall as temperatures continue to drop, however, there is an increasing likelihood that cases of EHD will occur in the years to come. The distribution of EHD outbreaks has shifted north as summer temperatures have risen due to climate change. We encourage community members and in particular hunters to report deer to DFW regional offices that appear symptomatic. (As noted above) The most common signs are swelling of the face or neck, weakness, respiratory distress, fever, and excessive salivation. Infected deer are often found near water sources. EHD cannot spread to humans and does not cause effects in the deer population, but will sometimes have localized impacts around severe epidemics. “
This time of year, bow hunters are on the lookout for potential hunting areas and hikers take advantage of the cooler weather to scour the trails and admire the beautiful fall foliage. As Martin wrote, if you see any signs of sick or dead deer that are suspected of having EHD or CRD, report them to your regional DFW office.
To date, there is no evidence that humans can contract the disease from consuming venison that has been infected with EHD or CRD.
Woodcock hunting season
Next Friday, October 1, the woodcock hunting season (a / k / a Timberdoodle) opens and ends on November 22. Waterfowl stamps are not required for woodcock hunting, nor the use of non-toxic shot. You must register for the Harvest Information Program (HIP). The daily limit is three and the possession limit is nine. Hunting rifles capable of holding more than three rounds can only be used if they are capped with a one-piece fill which limits the total capacity of the rifle to three rounds and cannot be removed without disassembling the rifle. Remember that a reasonable effort is required to retrieve any killed or crippled migratory birds.
Watch out for moose
MassWildlife urges drivers to exercise caution as it is mating season for moose. In September and October, moose become more active and cross roads more frequently. They will exit onto a roadway without worrying about oncoming traffic. At night, their dark bodies are difficult to see, and their eyes are much higher and are usually not reflected by headlights. Due to their weight and the length of their legs, the body often goes through the windshield and over the driver, making collisions extremely dangerous.
Don’t just expect to see them in remote areas. Last year, a moose was seen in the backyard of a residence on Elm Street in Pittsfield. Recently, a 700-pound bull moose roamed through traffic in downtown Worcester. After receiving reports that the moose was involved in a minor car accident, Massachusetts Environmental Police successfully immobilized it. DFW staff moved the moose to a nearby wooded area and monitored it until the effects of the immobilizing drugs wore off. While moose sightings are generally not alarming, this moose was found near busy roads and was relocated for the safety of the public and the moose.
Also, keep in mind that white-tailed deer also have romantic relationships, which usually happens from late October to early December. Also watch out for them, as they can also cause serious damage to your car if you hit one.