The Pennsylvania Game Commission has announced that 30 to 40 deer found dead in the vicinity of State Game Lands 214 in North Shenango and Sadsbury townships, Crawford County, the week of Sept. 8, succumbed to hemorrhagic disease.
Hemorrhagic disease (HD) affects wild cervids and is caused by viruses — either epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus or bluetongue virus — that are spread by biting midges.
Disease outbreaks typically occur in late fall when biting midges are in abundance.
While both elk and deer in Pennsylvania are susceptible to infection, white-tailed deer are far more susceptible and large-scale mortality events involving that species have been recorded within the Commonwealth over the past few years.
Historically, the Game Commission has monitored HD to keep track of what viral strains occur from year to year, as well as determine if there are population-level implications. To date, no significantly negative disease impacts have been identified and local populations quickly recover following an outbreak.
Over the past few years, midge distribution has expanded to higher, warmer, drier latitudes in North America, resulting in previously unexposed wild deer and elk populations are potentially being introduced to a novel pathogen.
HD does not present a danger to people or their pets. Nonetheless, the Game Commission urges the public to remain at a safe distance when observing wildlife and to not handle wildlife unless they are hunting, trapping, or otherwise authorized to do so.
The public is encouraged to report cases of two or more dead deer found in the same area at the same time by calling the Game Commission at 1-833-PGC-WILD (1-833-742-9453). Members of the public can also use the Game Commission’s Wildlife Health Survey tool at https://www.pgcapps.pa.gov/WHS to report health issues involving wild birds or mammals.