The first two cases of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in wild white-tailed deer in Minnesota have been confirmed by the Minnesota DNR.

EHD is a viral disease that is spread by a biting insect called a midge. These cases were found in Stearns County.

“All of our neighboring states have been dealing with EHD for years,” said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. “So it was always a question of when it would show up in Minnesota.”

The DNR suspects several deer in the St. Stephen area have recently died from EHD, and test from two other deer was positive for EHD. The outbreak is limited to Stearns County and this disease incubates for 5-10 days. Most infected deer die within 36 hours of exhibiting symptoms.

“EHD is both naturally occurring and seasonal,” Cornicelli said. “Given our cold temperatures, we can expect to see a shortened period of infection as frost will kill both the virus and midge that carries it.”

The Minnesota Board of Animal Health confirmed EHD in two capital deer in Houston County on Sept. 5th, but those cases appear unrelated to the Stearns County case. The disease first appeared in captive deer in the state in Southeast Minnesota, when BAH confirmed it in six deer on the Goodhue County farm.

Other states in the midwest including Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio have reported EHD mortalities almost every year. In some cases, the disease can dramatically reduce a local deer population in the short-term but has a relatively small impact on the overall deer population.

Iowa is experiencing an outbreak this year that has killed several hundred deer in the south-central part of the state.

The Minnesota DNR has reported that EHD is not a threat to humans or animals outside the deer family. Even with that report, people should not consume deer that appear to be sick or in poor health.

Finding multiple dead deer near a water source is typical of an EHD die-off, as fever drives the animals to seek water, but they die from internal lesions and hemorrhages.

People who find dead deer should report it to the nearest DNR area wildlife office, and contact information can be found on the DNR website. 

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