Nebraska's white-tailed deer herd is experiencing significant losses this summer due to epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). EHD has appeared periodically in the state over at least the last several decades, but this year's outbreak appears to be unusually severe. More than 3,000 suspected deer mortalities due to EHD have been reported over the past two months, mostly in northern and eastern Nebraska.
The severity of losses can be highly localized, so hunters are encouraged to communicate with landowners about potential changes in deer hunting opportunities, where they plan to hunt and make permit purchases accordingly. In addition to EHD, drought and wildfires may also change where deer are this fall; so hunters should be talking with landowners and scouting well before hunting seasons.
In response to this outbreak, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission will consider reductions in 2012 antlerless deer permits at its Board of Commissioners October 26 meeting in North Platte. Permit reductions of 20 to 50 percent are recommended in 18 antlerless only units, and the River Antlerless permit quota is recommended to change from "unlimited" to 4,500 permits. If changes are approved, they will go into effect after the commission meeting. All permits purchased prior to the approved changes will remain valid.
The new recommended quotas for antlerless deer units are: Blue Northwest 2,000; Blue Southeast 2,400; Buffalo 250; Calamus East 200; Calamus West 150; Elkhorn 1,800; Keya Paha 250; Loup East 750; Loup West 250; Missouri 750; Pine Ridge 640; Plains 480; Platte 800; Republican 2,000; Sandhills 350; Upper Platte 240; and Wahoo 2,100. The total reductions amount to nearly 9,000 antlerless permits, and will leave more than 17,000 antlerless permits still available. Biologists believe the permit reductions are needed to moderate EHD losses in these deer units, with the level of reduction based on EHD monitoring.
The disease is expected to continue until the first hard frost which should kill the midge (small biting insect) that transmits the virus. Humans are not at risk by handling infected deer, eating venison from infected deer or being bitten by infected midges.
Game and Parks remains interested in determining the extent of the disease and its possible effects on the deer population. The public should report any deer deaths that may be attributed to this disease to their nearest Game and Parks office: Alliance, 308-763-2940; North Platte, 308-535-8025; Kearney, 308-865-5310; Bassett, 402-684-2921; Norfolk, 402-370-3374; or Lincoln, 402-471-0641.
For more information on EHD in Nebraska go to http://www.outdoornebraska.ne.gov/hunting/EHD.asp. For more information on hemorrhagic diseases, including EHD, visit the web page of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Group from the University of Georgia at http://www.vet.uga.edu/scwds/general.php.