EHD outbreak killing deer across western PA

Posted on: August 21, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

EHD will kill deer until the first hard frost.

A white-tailed buck, antlers still in velvet, killed by EHD the last time it rolled through western Pennsylvania.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

The bad news just keeps rolling in, this  time in the form of an EHD outbreak.

Chronic wasting disease is spreading in the state’s wild deer herd. It’s spreading in the captive deer industry. It’s the reason a trophy bull elk that wandered into the wrong place at the wrong time was euthanized.

And now, officials in the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s southwest region office are reporting more than 150 dead whitetails in Beaver, Washington and Allegheny counties. The Game Commission is investigating the deaths.

But all are thought to have succumbed to EHD, otherwise known as epizootic hemorrhagic disease. That’s been confirmed in one case. A deer that died in Greene Township, Beaver County, was tested and confirmed EHDV serotype 2-positive.

Results are pending on other samples collected from deer in Allegheny and Washington counties.

“While we are waiting for additional test results, we do suspect EHD, based on field signs we are seeing during our investigations.” said Justin Brown, the agency’s wildlife veterinarian.

Deer contract EHD through the bite of small biting flies or midges. The disease can kill the animal within 5 to 10 days, but doesn’t spread from deer to deer, like chronic wasting disease.

It’s not infectious to humans, either.

An EHD outbreak is not necessarily an every-year thing in all places either.

It has, however, hit Pennsylvania before. It was confirmed in the state in 2002, 2007 and 2011.

Kentucky wildlife officials have reported an EHD outbreak this summer, too, so it’s not just here.

Brown said there can be short-term consequences to outbreaks like this one.

That’s what happened in 2007. Then, the commission estimated more than 1,000 deer died from the disease in Greene, Washington, Beaver, Allegheny, Westmoreland and Cambria counties.

But the disease doesn’t ruin deer hunting over the long haul, Brown added.

“While deer mortality can be significant locally during outbreaks there is no evidence that EHD can lead to long-term negative impacts on deer populations,” reads a commission press release.

The disease won’t remain on the landscape forever either. The midges that spread it disappear with the first hard frost, Brown said. So, too, then does the disease.

But until that frost – likely still a ways off – EHD will almost assuredly continue to claim deer.

Report EHD cases

Find a deer that appears to have succumbed to EHD? The Game Commission wants to know about it.

The Game Commission is collecting information and tissue samples from reported dead deer across the state. Speed is critical, though: due to decomposition, samples must be collected within 24 hours of the animal’s death in order to be viable for testing.

Tom Fazi, director of the southwest region office, urges people to report sightings of sick-looking or dead deer, which are often found by water, by calling 724-238-9523.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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