Harrisburg- Wildlife Conservation Officers are investigating the cause of death of more than 70 white-tailed deer in Gilmore, Franklin and Richhill townships, Greene County and West Finley Township, Washington County. Today, six samples from deer in both counties are being sent to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia for testing. Once the results are available, the Game Commission plans to release the findings to the public. On Oct. 10 and 11, Greene County Wildlife Conservation Officers Rod Burns and Randy Crago transported two deer carcasses of the 50 deer found in Greene County to the state Agriculture Department for testing, but the results were inconclusive so far. On Oct. 19, Washington County WCO Frank Leichtenberger reported more than 20 deer were found in West Finley Township. “While we must wait for test results to confirm just what caused these deer to die, at this time, we are suspecting that the deer died of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, which was recently confirmed across the state border in West Virginia,” said Robert C. Boyd, assistant director of the agency’s Bureau of Wildlife Management. EHD also was confirmed earlier this year in Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. If test results confirm the cause of death as epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), Boyd noted that this would mark the first time the disease has been confirmed in Pennsylvania. EHD is one of the most common diseases among white-tailed deer in the United States, and is contracted by the bite of insects called “biting midges.” EHD usually kills the animal within five to 10 days, but is not spread from deer to deer. While EHD is not infectious to humans, deer displaying severe symptoms of EHD may not be suitable for consumption. Boyd stressed that even though some EHD symptoms are similar to those of chronic wasting disease (CWD) — such as excessive drooling, unconsciousness and a loss of fear of humans — there is no relationship between EHD and CWD.
Boyd also pointed out that EHD should be curtailed with the first hard frost, which will kill the insects that may be spreading the disease. He noted that EHD, unlike CWD, is a seasonal disease and the affected local deer herd can rebound quickly. “The good news from this situation is that the public is reporting these sightings to the Game Commission,” Boyd said. “Should the state’s deer herd be infected with more serious diseases, the Game Commission will need to rely on the continued vigilance of the public so that we can respond in a timely manner.” Matt Hough, Game Commission Southwest Region Law Enforcement Supervisor, urged residents to report unusual sightings by calling the region’s toll-free number (1-877-877-7137). The Southwest Region serves Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Indiana, Somerset, Washington and Westmoreland counties. Residents in other counties are encouraged to call toll-free numbers in their respective regions. In 1996, EHD was suspected to be the cause of death in nearly 25 deer in Adams County. Test results in that case were inconclusive.