Wichita Deer in some parts of Kansas are dying from a disease spread by tiny insects that proliferated because of an extended drought, state wildlife officials said.
The deer are being felled by epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, which is spread by midges, tiny insects that pass infected blood from one animal to another. Because of the drought, the deer are drinking from shallow, stagnant water, which is a perfect breeding ground for midges, The Wichita Eagle reported.
“We had a guy in (Oct. 10) who’d found 13 dead deer in two sections,” said Lloyd Fox, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism big game program coordinator. “We’ve had them found from about all over the eastern one-third of the state.”
It also has been documented as far west as Butler and McPherson counties in recent months.
Deer with EHD often have their tongues hanging out and have lesions on their tongues. Their hooves often fall off and they eventually head to water because of high fever. Cattle can catch EHD but it rarely kills them, and sheep can be vulnerable to the disease. The disease cannot be passed to humans or pets.
Fox estimates some areas in northern and eastern Kansas may lose 25 to 30 percent of the deer herd this year. But many places in Kansas are losing only a few animals.
“In some areas (in other states) they find more than 100 deer. Most of our employees haven’t found more than two or three together,” Fox said. One game warden found five dead deer together in Greenwood County.
Joshua Whitehill, of Latham, said he saw four deer, three that were trophy-sized bucks, thought to have died from the disease in southeast Butler County this month.
EHD “is definitely going to have an effect on those who hunt mature bucks this year,” Whitehill said.
Fox said the worst EHD outbreak in Kansas was about 1990 in north-central regions of the state. A few years later, the disease apparently killed a high percentage of the pronghorn antelope population in the Flint Hills. In western Kansas, where water is usually scarce, deer have developed immunities to the disease.
Fox said temperatures cold enough to kill insects are the best way to fight the disease. And he said a good rain would help slow the disease because water is more plentiful and the deer spread out.