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Print

Deer disease hits Adams County hard

September 30, 2007 at 12:32 PM
The Illinois deer herd is estimated to be about 800,000. Hunters killed 200,000 deer last season; 115,279 were harvested by shotgun hunters and 65,170 by archery hunters. Muzzleloaders killed 5,939, while 9,075 were killed during the late winter antlerless hunt. Youth hunters took 1,099 and a special chronic wasting disease hunt totaled 625. The first statewide youth deer hunt will be held Oct. 6 and 7. The estimated number of deer hunters in Illinois is 110,000 resident and 20,000 nonresident archery hunters; there are 190,000 resident gun hunters bolstered by 10,000 nonresidents.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was published Sept. 29, 2007 in the Springfield State Journal-Register.

When the disease hits, it can be random in its cruelty. This year, when epizootic hemorrhagic disease starting killing deer on Tim Walmsley’s farm, the longtime hunter, deer scorer and founder of the Deer and Turkey Classic could only watch as animals literally staggered up into his yard to die.

“My neighbors and I have counted 47 so far, and those are just the ones we’ve found,” he says looking out from his back porch near Fowler. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It started just after all those rains we had about five weeks ago.

“It brought all those gnats out and the deer started dying about a week later,” he says. “The whole timber is nothing but buzzards.”

EHD is a viral disease spread by biting gnats. The outbreaks normally stop once cold weather kills the insects that carry it. Outbreaks usually are spotty, with heavy losses in some areas and little or none in others.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Department of Agriculture have reported EHD in wild deer in at least 28 counties in central and southern Illinois. Captive deer herds in Franklin and Randolph counties were hit hard.

Deer that contract the virus get sick and die quickly, often congregating around sources of water. The virus causes a high fever and internal bleeding. It is not a threat to people.

Some deer deaths due to EHD are reported most every year, and the last serious outbreak was in 2004. The disease first was reported in Michigan in 1955.

Don Higgins of Gays, author of “Hunting Trophy Whitetails in the Real World,” also raises captive deer.

“I have personally not seen any (losses because of EHD), but I know a guy who raises deer in Coles County, and he has lost four out of 12,” he says.

Higgins says he also has heard of captive deer herds in Moultrie and Douglas counties that were affected.

“I know those three counties have it for sure,” he says.

Dry conditions this summer in central and southern Illinois have created favorable conditions for the biting gnats to hatch in large numbers.

Walmsley says he is worried about another outbreak following Tuesday night’s rain.

“We’ve had super-dry and hot conditions all summer, and then you get the rains and the gnats just come out of the mud,” he says.

“We’ve had it before, but I’ve never found anything like this,” he says. “We won’t truly know how many are out there in the timber until we shed hunt (in late winter or early spring),” he says.

Walmsley says he has heard tales of woe from deer hunters everywhere.

“In Gallatin County, one property owner found 50 dead deer just shelling corn,” he says. “He wasn’t even looking hard.”

Walmsley says three deer died right at the edge of his yard.

“One of the big does lay down next to the water tank and died,” he says. “Mother Nature is doing a little thinning.”

The majority of dead bucks found on land owned by Walmsley and his neighbors were about 2½ years old.

One of his photographs shows a mature buck Walmsley had been watching grow up.

“I’ll start deer hunting Monday, and we’ll see who is left,” he says.

“That one buck, I knew him well. I hated to lose him.”

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so the deer just lay down next to the water tank and died? was it ill?

Posted by water tank on 06/19 at 12:26 PM

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