EHD: Fact and FictionSeptember 26th, 2012
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.
Also known as EHD.
Also known as “that damn disease.”
If you are a deer hunter living in southern Michigan, this is normally the time of year when the anticipation hits fever pitch. Bow season is just days away. The prime time of the rut and the start of gun season is on the very near horizon.
This year, however, that anticipation has been of a different variety. Less anticipation than apprehension.
EHD has hit southern Michigan hard and it continues to deal lethal blows.
EHD is a deadly virus that impacts white-tailed deer. If you want to learn more about what causes the disease, check out the DNR’s page here. What we must focus on now is what can be done about it.
At last count, 24 counties had been impacted by EHD and nearly 5,000 deer are confirmed dead. That’s easily the largest outbreak of EHD in state history. And it is also, unfortunately, a minimum number. The majority of deer that die from EHD will not be found. How many deer will truly be lost to the disease? Well, it’s probably safe to assume that less than 10 percent of all infected deer will be reported. Which would put the actual death toll somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000. If the total percentage or deer reported is five percent, well, you can double that number.
No one knows how many deer have died or what percentage of fatalities have been reported. And that’s probably the worst thing about this disease: It’s mysterious. But there are some known facts. So let’s focus on those.
VENISON IS SAFE
There is no evidence to support the thought that eating a deer infected with EHD will make you sick. Humans can’t get EHD and it is safe to eat venison from an infected deer. Obviously, you should always handle a deer you suspect to be sick with caution and a call to the DNR is a good idea as well.
THE SEASON IS ON
No changes have been made or are planned for this fall’s hunting seasons. DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason has said that he expects the EHD outbreak to possibly cause regulation changes for next year. But this year’s dates, bag limits and regulations are unchanged.
THIS IS NOT THE END
No long-term impacts from an EHD outbreak have ever been documented. Losses, while heavy, are localized and temporary. Most populations will rebound in 3-4 years. While that’s little consolation for hunters in the hardest-hit areas this season, time will reverse the impacts.