Hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts heading out into the woods and fields this weekend should report any sick deer or observations of multiple dead deer to the Department of Natural Resources.
In the last two weeks, DNR has had reports of people finding small groups of dead deer, primarily in the Town of Dekorra in Columbia County, but also small clusters of dead or dying deer have been reported recently in other areas of southern Wisconsin including Rock, Waukesha and Walworth counties.
Samples have been submitted for testing to determine the cause, with results expected in one to two weeks. However, initial observations by state wildlife health experts of the more recently discovered carcasses show symptoms that are consistent with a disease found in deer known as epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD.
“Our neighbor states have been seeing EHD outbreaks for the last several weeks. We think it has made its way into southern Wisconsin. It is a fairly common disease carried by midges (small biting insects commonly referred to as no-see-ums), which are not a threat to humans, so there is no cause for alarm. We are fortunate that the public is tuned into our deer and was quick to report these small pockets of problems. By sharing information about the outbreak, we are hoping to get more eyes on the ground,” Eric Lobner, DNR Southern Wisconsin wildlife supervisor, said.
EHD is a disease that is passed to deer by small biting flies. Often fatal, it typically kills the deer that is infected within seven days. The last EHD observation in Wisconsin was in 2002 in Iowa County where 14 deer died from the virus. EHD is common across southern states and occasionally shows up as far north as the upper Midwest.
This year, outbreaks of EHD have been reported in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. The disease is typically short-lived as the flies that transmit the disease die with the first hard frost. More information is available on the deer diseases page of the DNR website.
Individuals who observe deer exhibiting the following signs are encouraged to report their observations to the DNR:
• Excessive salivation or foaming around the nose and mouth.
• Appearing weak and approachable by humans.
• In or near water sources. They will often lay in water to cool down or drink.
“Our goal is to have a better handle on the distribution and the number of deer that are impacted by the disease,” Lobner said.
“Keeping a close eye on the health of our deer is important. Though there is little we can do to prevent the disease, with the onset of cold weather and frost, this outbreak should be over soon. Any information we can get will help us better understand the impact of the disease on our herd.”
To report a sick deer observation, call the DNR call center toll free at 1-888-WDNR-INFo (1-888-963-7463), email DNRInfo@Wisconsin.gov, or use the chat feature on the DNR website.
Staff are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Be prepared to provide details about the condition of the deer and the exact location where the deer was observed. Individuals interested in finding more information about sick deer in Wisconsin may visit the Wisconsin DNR website at dnr.wi.gov and use the keyword “sick deer.”