on Jul 20, 2012 10:22 AM • Views 6781
Media Contact: Carolyn Rickard

RALEIGH, N.C. (July 20, 2012) The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has observed an unusually high number of cases of hemorrhagic disease in white-tailed deer in Wilkes and Surry counties this summer, and is asking the public to report sightings of sick or diseased animals.  

It is unusual to have reports of deer dying from hemorrhagic disease in June and July.  Most hemorrhagic disease cases occur during August and September. Two closely related viruses — epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus and bluetongue virus — cause hemorrhagic disease and both are spread by biting flies, called midges.

The Commission is asking people to report any sightings of the disease, which has no human health implications, but is one of the most significant infectious diseases of white-tailed deer in North Carolina. Hemorrhagic disease should not be confused with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which is a distinctly different disease that occurs in members of the deer family. Extensive monitoring since 1999 has detected no evidence of CWD in North Carolina and strict regulations are in place to reduce the probability of introducing this disease.

Symptoms of hemorrhagic disease in deer vary widely. Some diseased animals exhibit no symptoms. Some may appear bloated, very thin and weak. Others suffering from the disease for longer duration may lose weight drastically.

They also may have foot, mouth and internal lesions. High fever associated with the disease can make deer thirsty, so dead and dying deer are often found near water.  Hunters may observe cracked or sloughing hooves on harvested deer, which is another classic symptom of the disease.

Outbreaks of this deer disease are seen almost every year somewhere within the state and across the Southeast. The last major outbreak in North Carolina was in 2007. Other notable outbreaks occurred in 1939, 1955, 1961, 1971, 1976, 1988, 1994, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2011. In years with severe hemorrhagic disease outbreaks, deer mortality reached 30 percent of the local herd in some areas.  However, in most instances mortality is much lower.

To report sightings of symptomatic deer, or dead and dying deer, contact the Division of Wildlife Management at 919-707-0050 or wrccomments@ncwildlife.org.

When people report sightings, it allows Commission biologists to determine what areas of the state are experiencing outbreaks and the extent of those outbreaks. It also gives biologists opportunities to obtain tissue and blood samples for virus isolation by veterinarians at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Athens, Ga. Reported occurrences are summarized annually and sent to the Southeastern Cooperative where the occurrence and outbreak extent is monitored collectively for all states.

Because the disease cannot spread to humans, hunters should not worry about dressing deer or eating venison. Deer that recover from an episode of hemorrhagic disease develop immunity to future outbreaks.

Learn more about hemorrhagic disease at www.ncwildlife.org.