Blue Tongue May Affect Deer Population By Hunting Season

By Forrest Sanders | 

As deer hunting season starts in September, gun safety isn't the only thing troubling hunters.

Eleven Kentucky counties have reported an outbreak of episodic hemorrhagic disease, or blue tongue.

It's a cyclic disease that affects deer every two to three years.

And the Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning hunters that the deer population could be severely affected this fall.

Earlier in the week, Nathan Sprague found two dead deer near his home in Rockfield.

"There was a little buck dead by the edge of the pond here and there was a doe dead in the pond itself," Sprague said.

And a little bit of research later, Nathan found out the deer had been affected by episodic hemorrhagic disease.

It's a disease that causes a fever and swelling of the head, neck and eyelids of the deer.

But according to the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, EHD is nothing uncommon.

"There's an outbreak every couple of years. It's nothing out of the ordinary, but due to some of this dry, hot weather, that might have some affect on the virus and some of the bugs that are transmitting the virus," James Heady, with the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife said.

"We have drought conditions, so we have stagnant water which gives more opportunity for these midge flies to reproduce. The more midge flies who are capable of carrying this disease, the more you're likely to be bitten by them," Sprague added.

Less than 25-percent of deer usually die from EHD in a population and Officer Heady is quick to point out. it's not infectious to humans.

But as a hunter of deer, Nathan's being wary about the meat he's storing this fall.

"I'll be definitely careful this year when we harvest deer. We'll look them over very well and be sure that if the deer has any lesion, we'll probably dispose of it rather than use it for food," Sprague assured.

Usually, it takes 72 hours for a deer to die of EHD.

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