Wildlife Officials Say Disease May Be Causing Deer Deaths

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) - State wildlife officials suspect that a disease is causing the deaths of numerous white-tailed deer in a portion of western Kentucky.

Tests results aren't complete, but officials suspect hemorrhagic disease carried by biting gnats is responsible. The disease is not infectious to humans, according to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

The worst outbreak is in McLean County, where more than 20 deer have been reported dead. The dead or weak deer are often found in or near water.

"Hemorrhagic disease is caused by a virus. We see large outbreaks about every two years in Kentucky," said Danny Watson, a KDFWR wildlife biologist.

Other affected counties are Breckinridge, Christian, Daviess, Hopkins, Logan, Muhlenberg, Ohio, Simpson and Webster. Archery season for deer opens statewide Sept. 1.

Tracy Bell, a conservation officer in McLean County, said several people contacted him in the last two weeks to report dead deer. He's retrieved two carcasses, one out of the yard of a home in Daviess County, the other out of a pond in McLean County. Some of the animals were sent to a laboratory in Hopkinsville for testing.

Mike Henshaw, regional program coordinator for KDFWR, said the lab hasn't isolated a cause for the deaths, but with the lack of rain and plenty of stagnant water, conditions are ideal for the spread of gnats.

The last significant outbreak of hemorrhagic disease was 2003, Henshaw said. But that mainly affected another part of the state, leaving the herd in his area with little or no immunity, he said.

Local deer populations can be hit hard. A survey of a farm in Webster County along the Green River found 20 dead deer, Henshaw said. Last Friday, Bell saw five deer carcasses in the water along a stretch of the river, he said. Bell counted three more dead deer in the river near Central City on Sunday.
Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer,

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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