BORDEN, Ind. (WAVE) – A disease is finding its way to deer around Clark County and other parts of southern Indiana just ahead of hunting season, and it can be fatal.
Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources this week confirmed a case in Clark County of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, found in a sick, dead deer. The continued spread of EHD could impact deer populations.
EHD is a viral disease that impacts white-tailed deer when they’re bitten by midges, also known as no-see-ums. The DNR says during an outbreak, death losses of deer locally can range from a few to more than 50 percent.
In southern Indiana, hunting is a pastime for many families.
“It’s a family tradition for me,” said Toby Cheatham, a hunter in Borden, Ind. “I’ve been doing (it) since I was a little guy, about 10 years old. And my two kids got started about the same time.”
Cheatham said he’s grown up hunting around Clark County, often big game like white-tailed deer or turkey. It’s something he looks forward to each year, from being outside to spending time with family. With deer hunting seasons around the corner, many families, like Cheatham’s, are already preparing.
“So it’s here and I think people are shooting their bows and getting their guns sighted in already, so it’s that time of year,” Cheatham said.
Just how bad this year’s outbreak could be is hard to predict, a DNR representative said.
“It’s a combination of factors related to the deer itself, to the strain of the virus itself, to what the midges are doing, to the environment,” said Dr. Nancy Boedeker, a wildlife veterinarian with the Indiana DNR. “But, in more significant outbreaks, you can have relatively high mortality or death of deer in a local area.”
Indiana’s last major outbreak was in 2012.
The viral disease also can be contracted by cattle, Boedeker said, but not to humans. So any hunters coming across infected deer aren’t at-risk.
“Typically, people are going to choose to shoot a healthy-looking deer,” Boedeker said. “But if a deer did happen to have EHD, the meat would still be considered safe to eat.”
Still, the risk of EHD to deer populations has many in the area worried.
“It is a concern, primarily because we want our deer population to continue to grow,” Cheatham said.
Symptoms of EHD include deer that seem depressed or weak, deer with a blue-tinged tongue, swelling of the head, neck or eyelids or sloughed hooves. While you cannot contract the disease from a sick deer, the DNR does track it.
The agency asks that if you see a deer that appears sick or is showing symptoms, report it directly by visiting the website deer.dnr.IN.gov and clicking report a dead or sick deer.