Ohio Deer Must Dodge Hunters and Disease

The hardest hit areas appear to be Belmont, Columbiana, Cuyahoga, Harrison, Jefferson, and Lorain counties.(ODNR)
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It’s been a rough autumn for white-tailed deer here.  Gun hunters managed to kill almost 73,000 in the week after Thanksgiving. But another threat for the deer has been an increase in disease.

About every five years wildlife officials see a jump in a fatal disease for deer called epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD. It may be linked to an increase in midges because it’s those insects that spread the virus to deer.  The animals with the disease will get a fever, hang their heads, salivate a lot, and eventually die. Because of the high fever, deer tend to seek out and often die near bodies of water.

Officials say EHD is not dangerous to humans like the brain illness Chronic Wasting Disease, found in deer in many states.  

A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Meredith Gilbert, says with EHD, hunters need not worry about eating the meat.

“As long as your deer, if a hunter’s taken a deer, as long as it looks healthy and seems to be in good health it should be fine, “ says Gilbert.  “You don’t have to worry.” 

She still suggests people should always avoid touching or handling sick or dead wild animals.

Any deer alive today should be disease free because the frost eliminates the midges. 

Communities in Northeast Ohio trying to reduce deer herds may have fewer worries but  Gilbert says EHD did not do any permanent damage to the population. And hunters found plenty.

“The deer population may have been affected a little bit but people were able to get out and have successful hunts and our deer population is very strong and shouldn’t have any problem recovering.”

But the white-tails aren’t out of the woods yet. This weekend, the gun season returns for 2 bonus days. Muzzle-loader hunters take a crack at it in early January and the archery season on deer continues into February.

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