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Drought Blamed for Nebraska Deer Disease Deaths

Posted at: 12/11/2012 11:05 AM
Updated at: 12/11/2012 11:19 AM

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska's continuing drought is being blamed for a big jump in the number of deer killed by a disease.

Almost 6,000 carcasses of deer believed killed by epizootic hemorrhagic disease have been reported to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission so far this year, according to the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/Pu0WWf ). Last year's reports numbered 10 or fewer.

The 2012 toll represents the most severe outbreak of the disease since the 1970s, said state officials.

"I think throughout the Midwest, there are states dealing with it," said Scott Taylor, who is wildlife division manager for Game and Parks. "But I think Nebraska is dealing with it to a greater degree than any other state, because the drought conditions are worse than any other state."

Last week's U.S. Drought Monitor report said more than 90 percent of Nebraska remained gripped by extreme or exceptional drought.

Taylor said that as water recedes in various pools and depressions, the standing water leaves a mud line habitat for midges - the tiny insects that spread the disease.

As water sources shrivel away, more and more deer congregate at the remaining drinking spots in their area, which Taylor described as a "sort of a recipe for a large outbreak."

The disease causes hemorrhaging within a deer's body. Deer suffering from the virus may develop a high fever and seek water, which is why many deer killed by the disease are found in or near water.

The disease outbreaks usually stop when the midges die in the first hard freeze of fall or winter.

People are not endangered by handling or eating infected deer, experts say, because the disease poses no risk to humans.

The loss of deer has raised questions about whether the state should put new limits on deer hunting next year.

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is discussing the issue at a series of public meetings across the state this month.

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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