Deer harvest may be down

Outdoor Deer

By Mike Zlotnicki

It’s been a very slow deer season, for me anyway. A combination of family obligations and other duties have kept my trips to the Halifax County lease to a minimum.

On the last four trips, I haven’t seen a deer, and I’m not the only one not seeing as many animals this season.

The outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease that occurred this summer and into the fall might be a factor.

According to a Wildlife Resources Commission news release, hemorrhagic disease is a common disease of deer caused by two types of viruses – one producing blue tongue and the other producing epizootic hemorrhagic disease. Tests of infected animals indicate that epizootic hemorrhagic disease appears to be the responsible virus for this year’s outbreak.

Hemorrhagic disease is a cyclic disease and tends to occur in North Carolina every year, although with varying degrees of severity and distribution. The counties with moderate to severe cases of HD this year are Granville, Durham, Wake, Johnston, Vance, Franklin and Warren counties.

Transported by a biting midge or gnat, the HD viruses enter deer through insect bites. Common symptoms of sick animals include emaciation, loss of motor control, fever, lameness, and swelling of the neck and head. Feverish deer often seek relief near cool bodies of water, resulting in a higher frequency of dead deer near water than on adjacent uplands. Examinations of dead deer usually reveal ulcerations on the tongue, dental pad and roof of the mouth. The mouth and tongue also may be bluish and the skin and other soft tissues may be flush or reddish.

A combination of a strong mast crop (mostly acorns) and EHD may be to blame.

“While HD can have an impact on deer populations in some counties, it likely isn’t the only reason people aren’t seeing as many deer as they have in previous years,” said Dr. Maria Palamar, the Commission’s wildlife veterinarian, in a release. “Because the acorn crop has been so abundant this year, deer really haven’t had to move around as much, so people aren’t seeing them as much as they would in years with less food on the ground.”

When the results of this year’s harvest are available they will be published in The Buzz.

Annual Public Hearings Scheduled

Every year, the Wildlife Resources Commission holds nine public hearings (one in each of the state’s districts) about proposed changes to the state’s wildlife management, game lands and fishing regulations for the coming seasons. The District 3 meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, January 22, in Smithfield in the auditorium at Johnston Community College, at 245 College Road. Public comment is encouraged at these meetings. For more information about the other district meeting dates and locations go to ncwildlife.org and click on the Public Notice tab.