Deer Diseases


Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a transmissible, always fatal, neurological disease that affects deer and other cervids such as elk, moose and reindeer/caribou. CWD was detected in North Carolina in March 2022. In response, CWD Surveillance Areas and special regulations were initiated. Visit our CWD page for more information.


Hemorrhagic Disease

Hemorrhagic Disease is the most important infectious disease of white-tailed deer, and outbreaks occur almost every year in the Southeast. It is caused by either of two closely related viruses, epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) virus or bluetongue virus. Because disease features produced by these viruses are indistinguishable, a general term, hemorrhagic disease, often is used when the specific virus responsible is unknown. Because EHD and bluetongue viruses are transmitted by biting flies, hemorrhagic disease is seasonal and occurs in late summer and early fall. 

Hemorrhagic Disease Flyer (PDF)

Hemorrhagic Disease Report for District 3, 2014 (PDF)

Hemorrhagic Disease 2012 (PDF)

Hemorrhagic Disease Presentation Video

Southeastern Wildlife Disease Study Information on Hemorrhagic Disease of Whitetail Deer (PDF)



Hunting and West Nile Virus 

West Nile virus is an infectious disease of birds that can also infect humans. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the North Carolina Division of Public Health, West Nile virus may cause flu-like symptoms in humans, such as headache, swollen glands and muscle aches, as well as a rash. Usually West Nile virus only causes mild disease in humans, but in rare cases the virus may cause encephalitis and even death. Elderly people and those with compromised immune systems are most likely to be severely affected by West Nile virus.



The SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes COVID-19 in humans, has been detected in wild white-tailed deer inIowa and Ohio. Some states began testing live deer following initial work by the US Department of Agriculture that confirmed the susceptibility of captive deer to the virus and still other research that detected antibodies to the virus in wild deer in Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. So far, COVID testing in wild deer has been limited to only a few states, but increased testing is occurring locally and nationally.

COVID-19 Precautions for Handling and Processing Deer (PDF) December 2021

Seen a Sick Deer?

If you have seen or harvested a sick deer, please call your local District Biologist or the Wildlife Helpline at 1-866-318-2401.

Signs to look for:

  • Isolation from other animals
  • Listlessness or showing little or no interest in their surroundings
  • Lack of coordination
  • Frequent lowering of the head
  • Blank facial expressions
  • Walking in set patterns    
  • Drooling and grinding of teeth
  • Drinking lots of water and increased urination
  • Low weight

For more information, see our Chronic Wasting Disease Fact Sheet (PDF).