50 Knox County deer found dead

Information from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

As hunters gear up for the 2017 deer hunting season, many have been confronted by an issue: the local deer population is dwindling due to hemorrhagic disease spreading. In fact, there have been 50 reported cases in Knox County alone since August 29.

Hemorrhagic disease (HD), according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), is currently effecting the white-tailed deer population in Kentucky. This is caused by two related orbiviruses, epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) and bluetongue virus (BTV).


HD is transmitted through the bite of infected midges, also called gnats or no-see-ums, and are considered the most important viral agents affecting deer populations in the United States, continues the KDFWR.

Deer with an acute form of HD will appear feverish and depressed, have swelling of the head, neck, tongue and eyelids, will be in respiratory distress, have internal hemorrhaging and typically die in one to three days. Carcasses are often recovered near water.

Deer with more chronic forms of HD will exhibit lesions, sloughing hooves, ulcers and swelling. HD is diagnosed from a blood sample or from a refrigerated sample of spleen, lung or lymph node tissue. There are no known treatments or control of HD and currently, little can be done to prevent it.

According to the KDFWR, there is not too much cause for concern, however.

KDFWR reports death rates are usually well below 25 percent of the population and no deer population has ever been wiped out by HD. Furthermore, the viruses that cause hemorrhagic disease do not infect humans and people will not contract these diseases from eating meat from infected animals. Deer with hemorrhagic disease may be more susceptible to other diseases, however, and consumption of a sick-looking animal is not advised.

To report any sick or dead deer, visit https://www.research.net/r/SickorDeadDeerKY2017. For more information, visit fw.ky.gov.

Graphic from KDFWR