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Drought and Deer Disease

Sep 17, 2007

The coincidence of this blog and what I found on a walk along a creek where we live is quite bizarre. It has to do with the dead deer that I found and photographed. I don’t know if the disease I described here is what killed the deer, but it certainly is possible. Here’s what I had planned to put in a blog post this week:

Although it appears mostly limited this year to the southeastern and central parts of dead deerMissouri, some deer are infected with EHD (Epizootic hemorrhagic disease), a common virus spread among deer by a small biting fly. This is not a health concern for people since it is a disease specific only to deer. Cattle may carry the virus, but generally don’t show any symptoms.

Lonnie Hansen, our deer biologist, told me that outbreaks have mainly happened during droughts such as in 1980, 1988 and 1998. The idea behind the association with drought is that the deer (and flies) may congregate near the few water spots, which increases likelihood of the disease spreading. Freezing temperatures will mean an end to the biting fly and the disease outbreak.

The only reason I’m mentioning it is that in some parts of the state you may come upon what appears to be a newly dead deer and wonder what could have killed it. Most deer infected by the virus die within a few days.

One thing you can do is report a dead deer to a local conservation agent so they can help track the deer herd health. (Deer dead along roadsides wouldn’t be included since vehicles would most likely be the cause.) If the deer died very recently, they may even want to take a tissue sample.

Even though you may not be likely to see such a deer, I figure that the more people are aware of it, the better we can do at keeping tabs on our deer health. I came up on a dead deer on our trail in the woods in summer 1998 and suspect this was the cause. It’s just useful to know what’s happening with our wildlife…

Okay, so that’s what I had planned on writing, and then I’m taking a walk yesterday morning and see the buck. I found the deer along a creek near one of the few small pools of water left in it. Although I didn’t turn the deer over, I didn’t see any other signs of damage (such as an arrow, blood or punctures from another buck’s antlers). It seems an odd coincidence that I happened upon it. The chance of you needing to report a similar thing is slim, but the more people who at least know about EHD, the more we can all help with keeping track of it.


Thank you for your report. It is unfortunate the media does not include this specific information about EHD and Blue Tongue to help educate a public who only believes the a good deer is a dead deer. The mentality of some of these folks who continue to kill and injure deer on the highway is such that they wish the deer were exterminated, this is not wholesome for the revenue based public coming to MO to hunt. Can we give the whitetail a break and a better public image?

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