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Disease killing dozens of white-tailed deer
White-tailed deer contract hemorrhagic viruses from gnats, with death by internal bleeding the typical result. Wyoming Game and Fish Department photo

Disease killing dozens of white-tailed deer

Aug 15, 2013 - By Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

Many deaths have been confirmed, but the true number is hard to ascertain accurately.

CHEYENNE -- Hemorrhagic disease caused by two possible viruses has been killing dozens of white-tailed deer in Wyoming and Montana over the past month.

The deer are dying of internal bleeding and tests at the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab in Laramie will determine if epizootic hemorrhagic disease or bluetongue is responsible. Both viruses are endemic, or native, to the region and cause outbreaks in wildlife from time to time.

White-tailed deer are the usual victims, but hemorrhagic disease also can infect pronghorn antelope, elk and mule deer. Both diseases can infect livestock, but neither poses a risk to humans.

People in recent weeks have come across dozens of dead and dying deer in the Bighorn Basin in north-central Wyoming and in Montana, from the Great Falls area to north of Chester.

"A lot of the landowners are finding them in the irrigation ditches," Tom Easterly, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist in Greybull, said.

The actual number of deaths is difficult for biologists to determine with much accuracy. An especially large outbreak could cause the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to restrict deer hunting limits in the area this fall, Easterly said, but he expressed doubt that would happen.

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