Originally Published: September 15, 2018 2:29 p.m.
A disease affecting some mule deer in the Yavapai Hills community and surrounding areas near Prescott has been confirmed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
After receiving reports in recent weeks from residents who observed deer that appeared to be lethargic, blind, walking in circles and unaware of their surroundings, Game and Fish biologists collected tissue samples from three animals and sent them to a laboratory for testing, according to a news release.
The results confirmed the presence of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in all three deer, as well as bluetongue in one of the three animals.
These viruses affect only animals, primarily deer but also pronghorn, bighorn sheep, domestic sheep and cattle, Game and Fish officials reported Friday.
“We detected these viruses in sick deer last year in Prescott Valley and around Kingman,” said Anne Justice-Allen, the department’s wildlife veterinarian. “We know these viruses have been present in Arizona because we can find antibodies in the blood of wildlife.”
The viruses are spread by culicoides midges, commonly known as “no-see-ums,” Game and Fish officials said. The midge populations dramatically increase as the result of summer monsoon precipitation.
“Generally, we don’t see any significant disease because most of the susceptible wildlife have some immunity to the infection. It could be that we are seeing more this year because of several years of drought, meaning the animals were not exposed and did not develop immunity.”
Justice-Allen added that the intense monsoon this summer has caused a bloom of the midges, exposing native animals and leading to the disease.
Ryan Hoyt, a resident of Yavapai Hills, said he has witnessed the deer in question.
“They do not behave normally,” he said Saturday. “As a hunter, you can tell when there’s just something wrong with an animal.”
He said a deer’s natural “escape” behavior is not present in the sick deer.
Calls to the Arizona Department of Agriculture livestock inspector, to see if EHD has been seen in local sheep or cattle, went unreturned before press time.
Game and Fish officials and local veterinarians were unavailable for comments, concerning treatment for EHD and mortality rates.
A Weather Service report states that drier conditions are ahead for Yavapai County, along with cooler temperatures, and the midges will be decreasing significantly.
NO EFFECT ON HUMANS
Again, EHD has been shown not to affect humans. While there is no evidence that the disease can be contracted by consuming venison that has been infected with EHD, the department always advises hunters not to shoot, handle or consume any animal that is acting abnormally or appears to be sick.
Game and Fish officials also advise people to wear latex or rubber gloves when field-dressing a deer.
All hunters - and the general public - are asked to contact Game and Fish at 800-352-0700 if they see or harvest an animal that appears to be sick.