Deer death toll jumps to 81

Ky. Dept. of Fish &
Wildlife Resources

As reported last week in The Mountain Advocate, a recent outbreak of hemorrhagic disease (HD) had effected 50 Knox County deer. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) has released new data, now citing 81 Knox County deer have been effected, all occurring right at the beginning of deer hunting season.

HD, according to KDFWR, 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.

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, despite rising death rates, there is not too much cause for concern.

KDFWR reports death rates are usually well below 25 percent of the population and no deer population has ever been wiped out by HD.

“As with most diseases and parasites of white-tailed deer, impacts will be minimized in deer herds that are maintained at moderate to low densities. The best and only practical means of regulating deer populations is through recreational deer hunting, including the harvest of antlerless deer,” states the KDFWR. “Although die-offs of deer due to hemorrhagic disease often cause alarm, past experiences have shown that mortality will not decimate local deer populations and the outbreak will be curtailed by the onset of cold weather.”

Furthermore, the viruses that cause hemorrhagic disease do not infect humans and people will not contract these diseases from eating meat from infected animals. However, deer with hemorrhagic disease may be more susceptible to other diseases so consumption of a sick-looking animal is not advised by the KDFWR.

To report any sick or dead deer, visit For more information, visit The link to the HD article can be found on the front page.