Nature has a reputation for being ‘red in tooth and claw’ – and when we think of dangers to our wild animals, we tend to think primarily of predators like bears and wolves. But disease can be an even deadlier – and much more elusive – threat.
Since September, we’ve received sporadic reports about a number of dead deer and antelope – about 50 in all. These reports were all coming from the same approximate location – Foremost, close to the Montana border.
The northern states – including Montana – are currently dealing with an ongoing outbreak of Haemorrhagic Disease (EHD). This disease impacts ungulates (which is just a fancy way of saying ‘hooved animals’). The virus strikes rapidly, and often causes death in as little as 1 – 3 days. Although it’s almost always seen in deer and antelope, it can sometimes spread to other hooved animals, including bison and cattle – but not to humans.
The disease is mostly limited to the northern States, where there have been a number of recent outbreaks. But nature doesn’t recognize border lines – so from time to time, EHD impacts wildlife in the south of BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
Instances of EHD in Alberta are pretty rare, but not unheard of – the disease first made an appearance in Alberta in 1962. So far, a relatively small number of deer have been affected this year – we will continue to monitor the spread of the disease (and if necessary, we’ll take measures to help the deer population recover, such as limiting the number of deer hunting licences we issue next year). So, what’s your role in all this?
Here’s what you need to know:
If you’re a hiker or someone else who comes into proximity with deer:
- Don’t be alarmed – this virus does not cause human infection.
- If you come across a deer carcass, call your local Fish and Wildlife office and report it.
If you’re a hunter:
- Because cases of this disease in Alberta are rare, there is no systemic screening program like there is for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).
- If you come across a deer carcass while hunting in southern Alberta, please call your local Fish and Wildlife office.
If you’re a rancher:
- EHD can infect a broad range of hooved animals – including cattle. You should contact a licensed veterinarian if you suspect a possible infection.
If you have any concerns, you can contact your local Fish and Wildlife office during business hours, or our Info Centre at 310-ESRD (3773), 24/7.