WILTZ: With what we've been through, an EHD discussion would be appropriateI’m not Dr. Roger, and I don’t have a degree in animal pathology, but over the years, I have kept my eyes open and my ears to the ground with respect to EHD. I have discovered countless victims, and I feel qualified to make some observations.
By: Roger Wiltz, The Daily Republic
I’m not Dr. Roger, and I don’t have a degree in animal pathology, but over the years, I have kept my eyes open and my ears to the ground with respect to EHD. I have discovered countless victims, and I feel qualified to make some observations.
This year’s late summer and early fall outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, commonly known as EHD or HD, is the biggest outdoor related story of the year. Though the symptoms relate closely to a disease known as bluetongue, they are not the same.
While the white-tailed deer is EHD’s primary target, it can affect mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and cattle to a much lesser degree. The disease is rarely fatal in cattle, with a mild fever being the primary symptom. In white-tailed deer, the first symptoms are loss of appetite and loss of fear of man. Eventually high fever will lead the afflicted deer to seek water and actually lie in it in order to cool themselves. This is why the dead deer are often found near water.
The infection is transmitted by the bite of a midge or biting fly. It is not transmitted from animal to animal, and the outbreak ends with a hard frost. EHD was given a name in 1955 when it was considered a new disease. Like many afflictions, it had been around for a long time before it was formally diagnosed.
What makes EHD immensely relevant to us South Dakotans is the fact that EHD strikes almost annually in parts of South Dakota and Nebraska. This is not true of Michigan, Missouri, Illinois, etc.
Just how significant was this year’s South Dakota infestation? One estimate placed our state’s loss at 1,000 deer. A month ago, I suggested that we could multiply that number by five. If up to 70 dead deer have been found on individual farms/ranches in Charles Mix County, and Charles Mix is outside the hardest hit counties, my estimate is conservative.
Our South Dakota Game, Fish, & Parks Department has acted accordingly. They shut down license sales in the affected areas, and they have offered license refunds in those same areas. I don’t know what else they could do.
Based on personal observations, I will say this about EHD. It flares up in areas where it has been hot and dry. This past summer we had prolonged record heat and drought. The EHD was predictable.
Along with heat and dry weather, EHD strikes when we have too many deer. In other words, if hunters don’t sufficiently cull the deer herd, God will through Mother Nature. As one area farmer told me, “This EHD isn’t all bad. At least I can now drive to town at night without hitting a deer.” There is truth to what he says.
Game, Fish, & Parks has long recognized our deer surplus. Right now I have both East River and West River deer tags. Both envelopes hold two additional doe tags. I, like most hunters, don’t fill the doe tags. If we collectively had filled the doe tags through the recent years, the EHD outbreak would not have been as severe.
I’m not saying the recent EHD epidemic was good. I’m just saying that there were reasons. Opinions will vary, and I’ll receive some mail to the contrary over today’s column. Their views may well be more accurate than mine.
During the October 20 pheasant opener, our group of five found more dead deer than we saw pheasants — seven dead deer, two roosters and three hens to be exact. The deer were near a dugout in a CRP field, and they had pretty much been torn apart by coyotes, etc.
Speaking of dead deer, some skulls with impressive antlers will be picked up this fall by farmers and hunters. Technically, I believe the skulls belong to the state, and one could be arrested for possessing such a skull. I don’t know that a conservation officer would actually arrest someone for this, but I’d be careful — especially when the skull has trophy value. It doesn’t take much for a skull to be worth three digits.
This brings to mind an interesting question. Let’s say you are legally deer hunting. You come across the bones of a magnificent trophy buck. The buck is impressive to the point that you are willing to put your tag around those antlers. Is the skull yours to keep? What if the buck is a fresh road kill? Could you legally tag the buck?
Think about this. In the meantime, I’ll get some answers from Game, Fish, & Parks personnel.
*See you next week.