BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Reports from hunters during the opening weekend of pheasant season indicate that the worst of a deer disease outbreak is over, North Dakota wildlife officials said.
Reports of deer deaths from epizootic hemorrhagic disease — commonly known as EHD — prompted the state Game and Fish Department in September to suspend the sale of more than 1,000 remaining doe licenses in the southwest part of the state. There also were reports in several counties of the disease spreading to cattle, according to the state Agriculture Department.
The disease is spread by tiny biting flies that typically die off with the first hard frost of the season.
Game and Fish personnel have been monitoring the deer population in the southwest since late August, after the first reports of dead deer came in from Bowman, Grant and Burleigh counties. The department looked to pheasant hunters in the field last weekend to help determine the severity of the situation.
“The area of the state where EHD traditionally occurs is covered with hunters,” Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian Dan Grove said. “With only a minimal number of dead deer sightings, combined with recent overnight low temperatures below freezing, it appears the worst of the EHD outbreak may be behind us.”
EHD primarily attacks wild animals such as deer, bighorn sheep and antelope, but it also can infect domestic animals including cattle, sheep and goats. White-tailed deer that are infected almost always die, though mule deer usually survive. The virus is not known to harm people.
The disease also has been found in deer in Montana, South Dakota and Wyoming this year. It’s not the first outbreak in North Dakota. In 2011, deer deaths from the disease occurred well into October and prompted Game and Fish to suspend hunting license sales and offer refunds to the holders of 13,000 deer licenses in several southwestern hunting units.