Stench of deer dying from disease overwhelms some communities

Published: Sep. 6, 2017 at 4:06 PM EDT
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A disease killing thousands of deer in Kentucky is frustrating hunters and people who live near the stench of the dead animals.

"We've been receiving reports since mid-July. They've been increasing in volume since about that time."

Gabe Jenkins is the Deer and Elk Program Coordinator for the department of Fish & Wildlife. He says a recent outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in Kentucky's whitetail deer population is one of the worst in a decade. Jenkins says that outbreak will grow over the next month or so. He also says the virus is only affecting about a third of the state.

"Our hunters in eastern Kentucky are probably going to be impacted the most because that's where the outbreak is occurring; but also it's our lowest deer densities in the state," Jenkins said.

While EHD is more commonly known by one of its strains, bluetongue, Jenkins says most cases in Kentucky are not actually bluetongue.

"It's very similar to the flu and different strains of the flu," Jenkins explained.

In some communities, people say the smell of dead deer is overwhelming. Jenkins says you can bury the deer and cover it with lime to cut down on the stench.

Jenkins says there is no threat to the human or pet populations, but don't eat a deer if it looks sick.

If you spot a deer that appears to have lost its fear of humans or that looks emaciated, Jenkins says you can report it to the Department of Fish & Wildlife online or by calling them.

"Deer are very resilient. It might set them back for a year or two, but they will come back with a vengeance and be even healthier and stronger in the future."

Despite the EHD outbreak, this past weekend was a record breaker for Kentucky hunters. Officials here at the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources say hunters harvested 2,026 deer in the first three days of bow season. That breaks the previous record of 1,746 set last year.