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Whitetail deer and disease

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Like any animal, Whitetail Deer are susceptible to disease. Deer in different parts of the country are affected by different infections, but none the less, they are all just as detrimental to a heard. Commonly seen in whitetails are brain abscesses, parasites, hemorrahagic disease, tuberculosis, and chronic wasting disease. Let’s break each of these down a little so you know how deer are affected, and what to look for.

Brain abscesses and parasites are one of the most common illnesses whitetail deer, especially bucks, will face. Bucks are extra susceptible to abscesses because of injuries caused from sparing. Infection can also begin in abnormal antler growth or loss. While brain abscesses can be fatal, some deer live with them but will have to continue to fight the infection.  In a recent study, it was found that more than half of free roaming Whitetail deer in North East Ohio have a parasitic infection. Often times parasites come from fly bites, or flies landing on open wounds. Parasites can be fatal due to causing infection as they burrow further into the host animal.

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is a fairly new disease seen in Ohio deer, but has been seen in neighboring states for a few years now. It tends to be localized in a herd, however is easily spread. Deer infected with EHD will commonly seem disoriented, have swelling in in their neck and head(including eyes, and tongue), as well as trouble breathing. You should contact a wildlife officer is you think you spot, or kill, a whitetail with EHD. It is transmitted through insects, and is not believed to affect humans.

Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) is one of few diseases deer can contract that, while rare, is able to be transmitted to humans. While not seen yet in Ohio deer, it is predicted to find it’s way into Ohio. Cases have now been found in Michigan, Indiana, and Pennsylvania. Deer who have TB will display breathing issues, weight loss, and enlarged and draining lymph nodes.  In severe cases hunters may be able to see puss filled abscesses on the outside of the body. Deer with TB will eventually succumb to the disease. If you see a deer you believe to be infected, you should immediately contact the landowner and wildlife officer, but do not kill the deer. Be ready to describe the location and behavior of the deer of concern.

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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is becoming one of the most rapid growing diseases of concern across the United States. To try and limit CWD infestations in Ohio, there are restrictions in place for wild deer, elk, and moose being brought in as of August 1st, 2018. Deer affected by wasting disease will drastically lose weight, and increased drinking. Hair loss, pacing and exclusion, along with neurological issues (blank stare, aggression, lack of fear towards humans) are seen in whitetail deer as the disease progresses. If you encounter a deer you believe to be affected by CWD, you should IMMEDIATELY contact your local wildlife law officer, and surrounding landowners.  Do not try to handle the deer yourself.

Many of these diseases have similar symptoms, but very different effect on humans, this is why not handling the deer yourself is so crucial. Wildlife resource officers are trained on handling infected wildlife, and the various diseases they may have contracted. For more information about Ohio deer and wildlife disease, click here.