Disease blamed for rise in number of dead deer

November 17, 2012


A large buck stands in a field of grass north of Lawrence on Thursday. Dozens of the animals have been found dead near lakes and ponds this summer and fall, victims of a seasonal virus that hit the area harder with the help of this summer’s drought.

A large buck stands in a field of grass north of Lawrence on Thursday. Dozens of the animals have been found dead near lakes and ponds this summer and fall, victims of a seasonal virus that hit the area harder with the help of this summer’s drought.

Hunters in Douglas and Franklin counties may find the local deer herds a little thinner this season.

Dozens of the animals have been found dead near lakes and ponds this summer and fall, victims of a seasonal virus that hit the area harder with the help of this summer’s drought.

Shane Hesting, wildlife and disease coordinator for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the overall effect on Kansas deer was negligible, with 400 reported deaths out of a total population exceeding half a million. But, he said, the disease occurs in bunches, with some areas seeing more infection than others. This year, Douglas and Franklin counties saw more than most, with at least 30 reported cases between them.

The culprit was epizootic hemorrhagic disease, one of a family of viruses that includes bluetongue virus that kills deer across the U.S. every year. The virus infects deer through biting midges, or tiny flies, that breed in mud flats. Hesting said the death toll was higher this year because receding waters in lakes and ponds exposed more mud, breeding more flies and exposing more deer. There should be no new cases, he said, because the midges and the disease were neutralized with the first freezing temperatures of the year.

The hemorrhagic diseases afflicting deer cannot be transmitted to humans, and even an infected deer would technically be safe to eat, Hesting said. But the viruses can cause deer to develop bacterial infections. Hesting said a deer with any kind of bacterial infection would be unfit for human consumption.

He said there might be some truth to popular belief that deer infected with these viruses tend to die near water sources because the disease makes them increasingly thirsty. Another possible reason, he said, could be that the virus causes fever, and the animal seeks comfort in cool water. Or the deer could be seeking safety from predators by wading in a lake or hiding in a stream bed.

Deer hunter Darrel Norris, of Douglas County, said he thinks there might be even more cases that go unreported. He found one dead deer floating on Lone Star Lake several weeks ago, and stumbled on five others this year near his home south of the lake. Norris said he knows these diseases will kill a few deer each season, but it’s never been this bad in the 30 years he’s lived near the lake and he can see the effect when he goes hunting.

“I’ve never seen this before,” Norris said. “There aren’t as many out there.”

But they are still out there in numbers. Norris said he still sees healthy deer in his area and even killed a buck with his bow and arrow this season. Archery season for deer in Kansas continues until Dec. 31, and the regular shooting season lasts from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9.


rukidingme 5 years, 5 months ago

I am a deer hunter, I hunt for more than the sport. I hunt to feed my family. But with the loss of jobs and more people pinching pennys, deer hunters are up in numbers. The problem is the landowners post there property NO HUNTING. So the area to hunt is limited, yes there is public hunting, but this is not safe, to many hunters in one area. All I will say is thank you to the landowners who refuse hunters on there property. You have now increased the deer population and incresed the cost of Auto insurance due to more car/deer accidents. So hunters and non hunters when your out and about and you see property posted NO Hunting, stop and thank the landowner for driving up cost and taking money out of your bank account.

tomatogrower 5 years, 5 months ago

Actually, why don't you try to ask some of these land owners if you can hunt anyway. If they think you are a responsible hunter, they probably would let you. The reason most people post the no hunting signs, is to discourage just anyone from hunting on their property. Years ago I lived in the country and we would get all kinds of untrained gun nuts. They killed people's livestock and even pets. They acted like they could just walk onto any property and hunt whenever they wanted. We put up no hunting signs, but still let certain people hunt, who we knew were trained and careful hunters. Have you had a hunter safety course? And by the way, if some landowners just doesn't want to be bothered with hunters on their property, then I guess that's their business, isn't it.

LadyJ 5 years, 5 months ago

I remember being in the barn one day and bullets started hitting the outside wall. There can be good reasons why a landowner doesn't want hunters.

Tomato 5 years, 5 months ago

People want to know who is on their property and when so that they can be sure everything is done safetly.

If I don't post "No Hunting" signs and multiple people hunt on my property on the same day, it's possible that someone will get shot. And then guess who gets sued? Not just the shooter, but the property-owner too. And how about the thanks I'll get when you accidentally shoot me or my dog while I'm out walking?

Many property owners like to reserve their property for their own hunting - they may choose to invite friends or family to hunt.

If you owned property, you would understand why you don't want random strangers with guns feeling free to wander around shooting at moving objects on your property and near your home.

RoeDapple 5 years, 5 months ago

rukidingme - I'm a deer hunter too. Guess what, it's not all about you. I have hunted on posted property many times before, all with written permission. When you approach property owners with your hat in your hand, ask permission and hunt by their rules, many are willing to allow hunters on their place. Most farmers are or have been hunters themselves, and only refuse hunting due to the inconsideration of those who scatter trash, leave gates open and hunt so close to the house that every shot rattles the windows.

Try this. Before the season, go talk to a few farmers where you would like to hunt. If he's "choring", lend a hand while you discuss hunting his place. Helping stretch a fence wire or throwing a couple of bales speak volumes to him of your work ethics.

Honey vs. vinegar works as well today as it did 100 years ago.

countryguyks 5 years, 5 months ago

Its people like RUKIDINGME is exactly why my farm is posted No Hunting !

riverdrifter 5 years, 5 months ago

I found a few dead deer last summer but none since the kill frost. A friend in the insurance business says claims on vehicular deer collisions is down drastically this year. We are at or near the peak of the rut, BTW.

RoeDapple 5 years, 5 months ago

I think my rut peaked about 35 years ago riverdrifter . . . .

Just sayin' . . .

xdcr 5 years, 5 months ago

Of all the deer hunters in the area, the one you ask to comment on the deer disease was recently convicted of shooting a decoy deer, had this rifle taken, lost his license and fined. No wonder we have anti-hunting problems.

labmonkey 5 years, 5 months ago

When I was growing up on the farm, we were not allowed outside much during rifle season, and were made to wear safety orange when we did go out because of "those Johnson County idiots." We also had hunting clubs post signs on our property saying they had permission... without asking Dad's permission. He put a quick stop to that. We also had cattle and we didn't some jackass shooting killing a cow. There is a very good reason signs are posted and landowners want to know who is doing what on their property. My Dad and my aunt still have problems with people hunting without permission on their lands.

carp 5 years, 5 months ago

Been hunting my Mountian Cur pup(squirrel dog) a lot on Clinton Public and have found the remains of at least 9 deer in the last 3 weeks. Pup may not be much of a squirrel dog yet, but he can sure find dead things to roll in.......yeah!!

carp 5 years, 5 months ago

PM me a phone # and I'll give you a call.

CHEEZIT 5 years, 5 months ago

When I saw that picture I thought all the hunters would be salivating as to where that buck was! Looks pretty large!

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