CHARLESTON -- West Virginia wildlife officials say a late-summer outbreak of an often-fatal deer disease has killed hundreds of Mountain State whitetails.
Jim Crum, deer project leader for the state Division of Natural Resources, said hunters and landowners have been finding carcasses of deer killed by epizootic hemorrhagic disease.
"This year's EHD outbreak is not nearly as prevalent or widespread as the one we had in 2007," Crum said. "So far we've had confirmed mortality in Calhoun, Jefferson, Greenbrier, Hancock, Mason, Monroe and Pleasants counties. I don't have an accurate count right now, but the numbers are in the hundreds and not the thousands."
The disease, caused by a particular species of biting aquatic insect called a "midge," often occurs during the late stages of a hot, dry summer.
"Deer get hot and thirsty, and they go to streams and ponds to drink or cool off. Wet places like that are breeding grounds for the midges. When the midges bite the deer, they transmit the EHD virus," Crum explained.
Many deer that are bitten never contract the disease, but those that contract it often die from it.
"The mortality rate is pretty high," Crum said. "When it hits an area, the results are pretty obvious. We've had calls from concerned landowners, telling us they've found 11 dead deer here, or 13 dead deer there."
Though hunters and landowners often refer to EHD as "blue tongue," Crum said the two diseases are not the same.
"The viruses are similar, but what we have here is not blue tongue," he explained. "We have EHD serotype 2. Deer can get it, but cattle and humans cannot."