EHD outbreaks lead to unsold deer tags withdrawn

An epizootic hemorrhagic disease among deer in three Western South Dakota counties has prompted the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department to withdraw unsold antlerless deer licenses and encourage hunters to discuss local conditions before heading out to the field. Pioneer file photo

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SPEARFISH — A “significant outbreak” of epizootic hemorrhagic disease among deer in Harding, Perkins, and Meade counties has prompted the South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department to withdraw unsold antlerless deer licenses in certain hunting areas.

Additionally, hunters are asked to inquire with local landowners and wildlife conservation officers on local conditions, to decide if they should return their current deer license because of these issues.

“Based on mortality we have previously documented and the continued reports from landowners, hunters and other individuals in the field regarding dead deer, we have determined we have a significant hemorrhagic disease outbreak in western South Dakota,” said wildlife division director, Tom Kirschenmann.

“Fortunately we have a lot of radio collared deer in the high-impact acres – Harding and Perkins counties,” said Trenton Haffley, regional terrestrial resources supervisor  “A lot of our reports have been radio collared deer. They have GPS on them, and when that pings in that they have died, we are really trying to get someone up there within 24 to 36 hours to pull a sample to test for EHD.”

He said if the dead deer are not found within that 36-hour mark, coyotes and other predators usually find the deer and scavenge on them beyond testable use. But, he said, when those remains are found next to a creek or a wet depression, it’s likely it died of EHD, he said.

In the past two weeks, the GF&P has withdrawn nearly 1,000 deer licenses in Harding, Meade, and Perkins counties.

“GFP’s license return policy allows hunters to return their license for any reason, as long as they are postmarked prior to the start of the respective season, for a full refund and reinstatement of preference points,” Kirschenmann said. “Regardless where you plan to hunt in the state, please do your research and if you feel the area you plan to hunt has been impacted you are welcome to take advantage of this opportunity to return your license.”

Haffley said that interestingly enough, there have not been many reported cases in Butte County with its irrigation district which sees a traditional high-population density.

“It’s nature’s way of thinning the herd,” Haffley said. “When you get high deer densities and drought it’s something you kinda expect to happen.”

Currently, hemorrhagic disease has been confirmed in 15 counties across the state. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease or blue tongue virus, is spread by a biting midge and causes extensive internal hemorrhaging in infected animals. Both EHD and BT viral caused mortalities have been detected this year in South Dakota, particularly in western South Dakota. Many deer exhibit no clinical signs and appear perfectly healthy, while others may have symptoms such as respiratory distress, fever, swelling of the tongue, or ultimately death.

For more information on hemorrhagic disease visit https://gfp.sd.gov/epizootic-hemorrhagic-disease/.

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