CLARK COUNTY— Hunters in southern Indiana are keeping a close eye on a viral disease that may thin the deer herd this season.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources confirmed a case of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in Clark County this week. The viral disease, which impacts white-tailed deer when they are bitten by midges – or “no-see-ums” – was found in a dead deer in the county.
The DNR said during an outbreak of EHD, death losses of deer in the area can range from a few to more than 50 percent.
The news comes as hunters get ready for deer season.
“It’s a family tradition for me. I’ve been doing since I was a little guy, about 10 years old, and my two kids got started about the same time,” Toby Cheatham told WAVE-TV.
Wildlife experts say it’s hard to predict how the disease may impact this year’s deer population. Indiana’s last major outbreak came in 2012.
The disease can be spread to cattle, but not to humans, so hunters who encounter infected deer aren’t at risk, even if they take the meat home for dinner.
“Typically, people are going to choose to shoot a healthy looking deer. But if a deer did happen to have EHD, the meat would still be considered safe to eat,” said Indiana DNR wildlife veterinarian Dr. Nancy Boedeker.
Still, many in the area are worried about the risk of EHD to southern Indiana deer populations.
“It is a concern, primarily because we want our deer population to continue to grow,” Cheatham said.
Sypmtoms 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. They ask that if you see a deer that appears sick or is showing symptoms, report it directly to them.