DWR officials confirm viral disease among local deer populations

Past experiences with the disease have shown that mortality will not harm local deer populations.
Past experiences with the disease have shown that mortality will not harm local deer populations.(KEYC News Now)
Published: Aug. 15, 2022 at 6:40 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Virginia Department of WIldlire Resources has received several reports of deer in the state having a fatal viral disease known as hemorrhagic disease (HD).

The disease is common among white-tailed deer, and outbreaks happen annually around the Southeast and in Virginia.

Outbreaks are categorized as otherwise healthy deer being found dead or close to dying on the cool soil in wetlands or near water during the late summer and early fall. DWR says a deceased deer floating in a pond in late summer or early fall is also a good HD suspect because infected deer run a very high fever, which is how the animals attempt to break the fever.

DWR says biting flies, commonly known as biting gnats or midges, transmit the disease. HD outbreaks tend to continue until the first frost kills the disease-carrying insects.

HD is no threat to humans or domestic pets, and deer hunters are not at risk of handling or eating venison from infected deer. But, deer that act or look sick, either due to HD or another infectious disease, should not be eaten.

Not all deer that contract the disease will perish, those that survive the infection may develop hoof lesions/pain and are more susceptible to pneumonia. 

The department says although it is impossible to determine the number of deer affected by the current outbreaks, some decrease in deer numbers in the affected areas may be expected.

Anyone who sees a sick or deceased deer in your area and suspects HD may be the cause, shout not attempt to contact, disturb, kill or remove the animal. Instead, report t e approximate location of the deer to the Wildlife Helpline at 855-571-9003 or you may call or email the local wildlife biologist. A map of district wildlife biologists and their contact information may be found in the DMAP PDF. If possible, emails to local wildlife biologists must list the county, the community or area and the number of deer involved.

As of now, nothing can be done to prevent or control HD. Although die-offs often alarm people, past experiences have shown that mortality will not harm local deer populations, and the onset of cold weather will curtail the outbreak.

For more information on HD, click/tap here.

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