Opinion: Stay informed about wildlife diseasesImagine crazed mule deer chewing and pulling their own hair out, leaving their hides red with sores. Close examination reveals exotic louse chewing on the skin. The misery ends during the winter when freezing temperatures and pneumonia spell the end for the tormented deer. We are talking about DHLS, or Deer Hair Loss Syndrome.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
Imagine crazed mule deer chewing and pulling their own hair out, leaving their hides red with sores. Close examination reveals exotic louse chewing on the skin. The misery ends during the winter when freezing temperatures and pneumonia spell the end for the tormented deer.
We are talking about DHLS, or Deer Hair Loss Syndrome.
The culprits are an exotic foreign lice that were probably hitchhikers on imported fallow deer. They were first identified in the mid-1990s on Columbian blacktail deer in the Puget Sound, Wash., area.
Unfortunately, this insipid disease has spread, and has been identified in our home state of South Dakota. More than two dozen dead mule deer were found in our Badlands National Park. The loss of the heavily-infested deer was attributed to winter storms and parasites by park officials.
For lack of expertise, I can’t recommend what should be done about DHLS in South Dakota, but I do believe that our professional wildlife people should make us aware of it and keep us informed. While our South Dakota laws prohibit the importation of non-indigenous game animals like fallow deer, laws cannot prohibit the carrying of lice from one state to the next by deer.
CWD, or Chronic Waste Disease, hasn’t gone away, and our GF&P people have kept us informed on the numbers of identified cases. I learned about DHLS in the spring 2010 edition of Christensen’s Hunting Illustrated. The article “Mule Deer Watch” was written by Michael Burrell. Burrell personally found affected deer in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.
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I’d like to spend the remainder of today’s column with some thoughts on walleyes. On May 23, I caught a pair of walleyes in the same spot that went 19 and 21 inches. These were better than average Francis Case walleyes.
Our boat was positioned on a flat that was seven feet deep. A nearby ledge dropped abruptly to 19 feet. In my mind’s eye, I could picture these larger walleyes cruising just beneath the rim of the ledge. When a minnow-tipped jig was accurately presented, it was nailed by a walleye as it approached the ledge’s rim from below.
One, a male, oozed milt, indicating that the spawn was just wrapping up. I believe our cool spring led to a later-than-usual spawn. Surface temperatures at the face of the Randall Dam were still in the 40s on our free fishing weekend. It has been a most unusual spring.
Getting back to the above-mentioned ledge, I’ve caught hundreds of walleyes at this spot over the past 35 years, and I can’t recall that a single fish wasn’t a keeper, length-wise. As far as I’ve ever been able to tell, walleyes tend to school by size, and spots like these seem to hold larger fish.
These places can be identified with simple depth finders, an instrument found on most any boat today. Let me take this a step further. Francis Case, the reservoir most of us fish, is dropped way down every winter by the Corps of Engineers. This low water will expose the kinds of structure I’m talking about. Although a depth finder will present a fair picture, seeing it above ground is almost priceless to an angler.
During the winter, go to your favorite spots on Snake Creek, Platte Creek, Whetstone, Wheeler, Pease, White Swan or North Point on foot. When you find a particularly good structure, enter it on your hand-held GPS. The following spring or summer, you can take out the same GPS while you are in your boat and go to the exact same spot!
If I were a tournament angler, and my livelihood depended on fishing success, this would be in my bag of tricks.
There’s a second thing I’ve noticed about fishing structure that goes from deep to shallow as described above. On these rims, larger fish come during daylight hours while smaller fish tend to come at dawn or dusk. The action will be slower at the heat of the day, but the fish will be larger. I first noticed this while fishing the tailrace at Fort Thompson years ago.
I liked to shore fish the east side of the tailrace beyond the boulder rip-rap and below the second lamp post. I’d throw a quarter-ounce jig tipped with a minnow upstream and jig it back slowly while it swept past me in the current. The rim, about six feet from the bank, was plainly visible. The fish cruised beneath the rim.
We caught all the white bass we could possibly want, with walleyes coming frequently. The afternoon walleyes were always three-pound-plus fish that became smaller, a half inch at a time, as sunset approached. I hope to return to Fort Thompson this spring to see how today’s angling compares to that of the 60s.
I’d really like to know what the area’s successful walleye anglers think of my personal observations. Do you find them factual, or are they unique to me? Shoot me an email with your thoughts. See you next week.