IDNR Biologists Asking for Help in Tracking Fatal Deer Disease

Chris Young
IDNR Biologists Asking for Help in Tracking Fatal Deer Disease
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Landowners, hunters, and concerned citizens are asked to be on the lookout for dead or dying deer in the coming weeks, and to report suspected cases of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) to their local IDNR field office, or to the Wildlife Disease and Invasive Species Program (WDIS).  IDNR is especially interested in sick or recently dead animals as staff may be able to collect tissue samples in order to confirm the presence of the EHD virus.

EHD is a viral disease of white-tailed deer that can cause localized die-offs when conditions are favorable for transmission.  Numerous cases of EHD were reported in Illinois during the drought conditions of 2012 (the worst year for EHD reports in Illinois on record) and 2013, but EHD was virtually absent in 2014.  The virus is transmitted between deer by a midge that hatches from muddy areas along lakes/ponds and streams/rivers. 

Infected animals develop a high fever and dead animals often are found near water sources. Hunters may encounter deer killed by EHD when they go into the woods to hang tree stands and prepare for the upcoming deer hunting seasons. EHD outbreaks typically end when freezing weather kills the insects that spread the virus.

Contact information for local IDNR biologists is available at the following website  Contact the WDIS Program at 815-369-2414 or by email at  Please provide your name and contact information as well as the county, number of dead/sick deer, sex (if known), age (fawn or adult) and specific location of the deer (distance/direction from the nearest town or intersection of two roads). 

EHD affects a few deer somewhere in Illinois every year.  However, cases are more numerous during hot and dry summer weather conditions, presumably because receding water levels create these muddy areas along the edges of area ponds and streams, providing breeding sites for the midges. Limited water resources also congregate deer at remaining watering sites, creating conditions favorable for disease transmission.

While often fatal to deer, EHD is not hazardous to humans or pets.  EHD has been shown to affect livestock, so producers are encouraged to be vigilant as well.

What about the summer/fall of 2015?  Abundant spring and early summer rainfall would suggest that EHD would not be a problem.  However, EHD has been confirmed in captive deer herds in west central Illinois and rumors suggest that suspected EHD cases may have been found in wild deer as well. 
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