Disease Outbreak Kills More than 700 Deer In New York

A deer with antlers by a stream
Outdoor Life

Unfortunately, some of the best deer hunting areas in New York State will have a lot less deer running around the fall.

The region has been hit particularly hard by an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), and it’s believed to have killed off more than 700 deer.

According to Outdoor Life, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation recently confirmed a large EHD outbreak across 7 counties, including Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Nassau, Oswego, Suffolk, and Ulste. The outbreak is considered to have potentially made its way into 9 additional counties as well, including Albany, Jefferson, Oneida, Orange, Putnam, Rensselaer, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester. 

Unfortunately, these are some of the very best deer hunting counties in the state. While EHD does not present a danger to humans, the number of deer killed by the outbreak is considerable and could impact the number of deer that hunters see in the woods this fall. 

The disease is not spread from deer to deer, but rather it is transmitted by biting midges, bugs so tiny they are seemingly invisible. Humans cannot be infected by midge bites, nor can they transmit the disease from deer. 

Once a deer is infected by midge bites, they typically perish within 36 hours. EHD is most common in late summer and early fall when the midges are most abundant; however, this particular outbreak is considered to be notably brutal in terms of the number of deer impacted. The first good hard frost of the year typically kills off the midges and erases the threat for EHD outbreaks. 

Infected deer will display symptoms that include fever, hemorrhage in muscles or organs, and swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. The animals may appear lame or dehydrated, and EHD-infected deer often go to water sources and die nearby.

EHD usually occurs somewhat sporadically in the state, but this outbreak is particularly bad. The disease is more common in the southern U.S., and as a result, some regional deer herds have developed an immunity to the midges.

That is not the case in New York, however, and deer in the Empire State are believed to have no immunity to the disease. The outbreak is not considered to be a threat to the overall health of New York’s deer herd at large, but there may be noticeably fewer deer on the landscape in the counties impacted by the recent surge in EHD infections. 

The disease was first documented in New York in 2007, and the state’s worst outbreak came just last year when over 1,500 deer died from EHD infections in Putnam and Orange counties alone. 

The Department of Environmental Conservation is asking people who witness sick or dead deer to report them to their agency through a new online form devoted specifically to this issue. 

For more information on monitoring EHD outbreaks, check out this video from the National Deer Association.



A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock