Game and Fish continues to monitor EHD virus outbreak among deer, pronghorn

(Tom Koerner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

An outbreak of a virus that primarily affects white-tailed deer and pronghorn will likely continue until the first frost of the year, wildlife officials announced Wednesday.

The virus, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV), is currently being tracked by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), which has confirmed a growing presence of the disease from samples taken from dead deer and pronghorn in eastern Wyoming, per a Sept. 29 press release.

Symptoms of the virus include an inability or unwillingness to rise or move, swelling of tissues in the head and neck area, lameness, anorexia, prolonged recumbency (“downer” animals), among other things, per WGFD, which asks that hunters keep an eye out and report any animal they see with the symptoms this fall.

The presence of the virus is not uncommon in times of drought and hot weather, WGFD says, some years can have greater impacts than others and 2021 is shaping up to be one of them.

The virus is reportedly spread by disease-carrying biting midges that reside in or near water holes, which has wildlife managers anticipating higher exposure rates among deer and antelope as they congregate in greater numbers due to the dry conditions.

As water holes shrink, animals become more concentrated, so it is easy for midges to transmit the virus, per WGFD.

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Doug Brimeyer, deputy chief of the wildlife division, said that the warm temperatures moving into fall could result in even more cases until the first hard frost kills off midge populations.

A map published by the WGFD shows that the majority of lab-confirmed EHDV distribution cases have been confirmed in areas in and around Campbell County, though the map does not show the intensity of the disease.

Areas with high white-tailed deer will be impacted the hardest as will some isolated pronghorn areas, WGFD says, adding that impacts from the disease are not expected to be uniform.

The disease has been known to wax and wane in deer and pronghorn populations, per WGFD, and not all animals that are exposed to the virus will die.

Hunters should be aware of the disease this year and are encouraged to report potential cases. There’s no need to worry about contracting the virus, according to the WGFD, which adds that humans are not at risk of becoming infected with EHDV.