What is EHD?
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease is a viral disease found in Whitetail Deer and other “hooved” species.
What causes it?
EHD is spread through a biting midge. (Ever hear of a no-see um? Same thing.) This small flying insect can be found in abundance near isolated, shallow standing, low quality water. A cattle watering hole is an ideal breeding ground. The largest impact is in the Southern states where late summers and an early fall can be very dry including drought conditions coupled with heat. There are also cases of EHD as far North as Indiana that have been reported.
Significant outbreaks occur on a 5 to 10-year cycle and can affect an entire state. In Kentucky, as of November 21, 2017, there have been a total of 4625 reported and confirmed cases. Can you imagine what wasn’t reported or found what that number would be? Pike County Kentucky was hit the hardest with 573 cases. Back in 2015, Pike County had a harvest record of 2.4 deer per square mile. You have to wonder how 2017 will match up. Currently, there is no vaccine for EHD. The good news is, that it cannot be spread to humans.
What happens to a deer that becomes infected?
After the bite from an infected midge, there is an incubation period of up to 7 days before symptoms will begin to develop. Internal bleeding, weakness, shortness of breath, excessive salivating, loss of appetite, fever, and loss of fear of humans follow in very short order. Generally, within 36 hours of the symptom onset, the deer will die. Many deer are found near water – a last-ditch attempt to reduce their body temperature. The head and neck may swell along with a common characteristic of “breaking of the hooves”. Very few will survive but the ones that do will take weeks to recover and may become lame from hoof problems.
Where is the Prevention and Control?
I have read numerous articles on efforts to stop or control this small flying insect with a big bite. My findings were grime and discouraging. Midges can breed in pools as small as a mud imprinted hoof track. With no vaccine available, the only other suggestions are restructuring your man-made Whitetail watering holes, reduce standing water, or spraying the land with insecticides or larvicides. Of course, the best way to do this is from the air. Sadly, the average hunter is most likely leasing hunting property. Between the financial cost of aerial application and time required to get approval from the landowner, follow through with these suggestions is costly and not easily accomplished.
Remember West Nile Virus?
As a life-long hunter, conservationist, and the co-owner of a successful outfitting, it’s hard for me to not keep searching for answers. No so long ago, I was sitting in my truck waiting to pick up clients from their evening hunt, thinking about EHD and deer populations. As thoughts swarmed my mind, one jumped out at me: West Nile!!
For those of you who don’t know or remember, in 2012 there was a widespread outbreak of West Nile virus spreading across the US and the highest death toll since the first cases dating back to 1999. Currently, there’s no vaccine for West Nile. (I bet you are wondering where I’m going with this…)
During the 2012 outbreak of West Nile, many local government agencies started to give away free “Mosquito Dunks” for residents to put in standing water with the intent to slow the virus down. Technically, mosquitos and Midges are in a flying insect classification of Diptera, along with 1000’s of other species. Both are blood suckers and carry disease pathogens that effect humans and animals.
Can you get Control of the Midge?
“Mosquito Dunks” are biological larvae control which contain BTI, a natural mosquito larvicide, that kills larvae, but is harmless to birds, fish, wildlife, and pets. Simply place a “Dunk” in any standing water to control mosquito larvae for up to 30 days. Each “Mosquito Dunk” treats up to 100 square feet of surface water regardless of depth. You can purchase these at Walmart, Lowe’s, or Home Depot just to name a few. I recently found a 6 pack at Home Depot for $8.52. Doing the math – $1.42/unit covers 600 square feet of water surface. Of course, you would have to put them out and it would be out of your pocket but it’s cheaper than an aerial application.
Why Hasn’t This Been Mentioned Before?
Deer-vehicle collisions are costly! Did you know that the national claim cost per claim average from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017 was $4,179 – p from $3,995 (2015-16)? The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimates that there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and over $1 billion in vehicle damage. In 2014,166 deaths were the result of collisions with animals, according to the IIHS. For State Farm alone, there were 1.3 million deer claims reported nationally from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016. Can you imagine what that number would be for all insurance companies?
It is not a secret that vehicle insurance companies dislike deer. With 4625 EHD deer deaths in Kentucky alone, I would bet that decreases the odds of a collision and increases the revenue of the vehicle insurance industry. Coincidence? Maybe? Maybe not? If I am the insurance company, a lower deer population, in a left-handed manner, benefits me. Should those deer expire near a watering hole, all the better that they never venture onto a roadway to meet up with an auto insurance policy.
I’m not a biologist or a scientist; I am just a hunter. I don’t have hardcore evidence proving that the “Mosquito Dunks” work, but I don’t know why they wouldn’t. I don’t expect every hunter to rush to Home Depot either. My goal is to present the information that I found compelling while sitting in my truck one evening researching EHD. It’s your decision to try it. Worse case, you are out some cash. Alternatively, you stand to protect some of your herd, and maybe wipe out a mosquito or two in the process. It’s time we start asking questions and the right ones!! Below are links to interesting information for further reading.