Deer Virus Hits Montana, Changing Hunting Regulations

By Beacon Staff

Wildlife officials have received numerous reports of deer dying off from diseases across Montana this year.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife commission took action to address the effects of disease on white-tailed deer in North central Montana. The action taken prohibits the use of over the counter antlerless white-tailed B licenses purchased after today in all hunting districts North and West of the Missouri River in FWP Region 4.

FWP director Jeff Hagener said while no additional antlerless white-tailed B licenses purchased will be valid for that area all white-tailed B licenses purchased prior to today will remain valid for the entire region, with one exception – these licenses remain invalid regardless of purchase date in HD 455.

In addition Region 6 over the counter antlerless white-tailed B licenses are no longer for sale.

In a related action on Oct. 10, the Fish, & Wildlife Commission approved an emergency change to the deer hunting regulations for hunting districts 400, 401, 403, 404 and 406, north of Great Falls.

In those districts, general deer licenses are now valid for either sex white-tailed deer and mule deer bucks. Previously, hunters could take either sex, either species.

This change is due to a disease hitting white-tailed deer. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) was widespread in Montana this fall, including FWP Region 4. EHD primarily affects whitetails.

Landowners and sportsman have reported finding dead white-tailed deer throughout North central Montana since late July.

Deer die offs from disease have occurred in North America since 1890. These die offs have been diagnosed as various diseases. The first occurrence and identification of EHD occurred in 1995. Since that initial outbreak, EHD has mainly occurred among white tailed deer. While white-tailed deer are most susceptible to the disease, mule deer, pronghorn (antelope), and big horn sheep can also contract the virus. The virus is not contagious; therefore infected deer cannot spread the virus to other deer, livestock or to humans.

EHD is a virus spread by a biting midge. Outbreaks generally occur late summer and early fall, from August to October, and are associated with warm, wet weather. Outbreaks have also been associated with mild winter weather. Cold frost causes the midge to die off. Because midges breed in standing water, experts suggest limiting standing water to reduce numbers.

Although rare, domestic cattle and sheep have been reported to contract the virus, they may or may not show clinical signs and rarely die. Bluetongue is closely related to the EHD virus, and animals infected with the virus can show similar signs. However these two viruses are not the same and only laboratory tests can determine the difference.

EHD causes internal bleeding, increased breathing, excessive salvation (foamy mouth appearance), and loss of appetite, fearless of humans. Within infected ungulates, who generally die within days of contracting the virus. Dead deer are often found in or around water, because of fever they are in seek of water to cool their body temperature.

Wildlife officials are urging residents to report dead deer immediately.

For more information regarding or to report EHD contact Steph Gillin with Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at stephg@cskt.org or (406) 883-2888 ext. 7241 or Germaine White at 883-2888 ext. 7288.

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