North Carolina

Deer are dying in western North Carolina. Experts say this disease could claim more

Sick and dead deer have been found in western North Carolina, an official says.
Sick and dead deer have been found in western North Carolina, an official says. Screengrab from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission YouTube page

Dozens of white-tailed deer have died in western North Carolina, and the threat may not be over, an official says.

Justin McVey, a wildlife biologist, says about 40 deer have lost their lives in Madison County.

And it turns out a disease may be to blame, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission expert told McClatchy news group.

A test indicates the cause is probably a virus called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, according to McVey.

“It’s a really common disease in the Southeast,” McVey said.

McVey says the virus, which isn’t harmful to humans, spreads when biting midges come into contact with deer.

The hoofed animals can usually get infected all the way until the first frost, according to the wildlife biologist.

Affected deer can be feverish, sometimes seeking “relief near cool bodies of water,” according to a post on the wildlife commission’s website. Other symptoms include emaciation, swelling and issues with movement, officials say.

McVey said he has been getting reports of sick or dead deer since July, and the cases have been concentrated near the Little Pine and Big Pine areas.

This wouldn’t be the first time the deadly disease has made its way to North Carolina.

Wildlife officials in September 2017 announced an outbreak of hemorrhagic disease and said “the population will rebound.” At the time, hunters were told to be cautious of eating meat from animals that could be sick.

The disease is typically found somewhere in North Carolina each year, the commission says.

Anyone wanting to report sick or dead deer to the wildlife commission can call 866-318-2401.

Madison County is in the mountains, near the Tennessee border.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer