DANDRIDGE, Tenn. (WATE) – A summertime sickness is killing a number of deer in East Tennessee. Wildlife rangers say the virus is hitting harder than normal.
For weeks, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has been compiling reports of deer found dead in odd places, specifically close to water.
Wildlife biologists believe the sickness to be epizootic hemorrhagic disease or EHD. TWRA says the last time the state has had a major outbreak similar to this was in 2007.
The pond near Linda Mayes’ home in Jefferson County is quiet and somber. She’s finding it hard to shake her heartache.
“If I could’ve swam out there, I would,” said Mayes.
Within the last two or so days, she found a doe and a six-point buck, floating in her pond.
“When I saw her and she was struggling, she was still alive. I couldn’t do anything but cry because I knew I couldn’t help her,” added Mayes.
She quickly reported the deaths to TWRA and so far cases just like hers have been found in Anderson, Campbell, Carter, Claiborne, Grainger, Greene, Hawkins, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Scott, Sevier, Unicoi, Union, and Washington counties.
“Scott County itself has had over 100 individual deer reported dead,” said Dan Gibbs, a wildlife biologist for TWRA.
Gibbs believe the virus that’s impacting deer is EHD which comes from a mite carrying the disease.
“They get high fevers and they’re looking for ways to cool their body temperature down, and that’s why almost always these deer are found in or very close to water. And that’s key,” said Gibbs.
People and other animals cannot contract the virus. Gibbs suggests no one eat the meat from ill-looking deer or ones found dead because of EHD.
“One of the primary questions I’m getting from people is they want to know what they can do to help stop the spread on their property. Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do. You’ll just have to ride it out and let nature take its course,” added Gibbs.
TWRA says deer can survive EHD, so they’ll be watching herds for physical signs of the virus.
Mayes worries she’ll find more deer coming to her pond, so she’s trying to find peace more than ever.
“They’re like family to me. All God’s creatures are family to me.”
It’s too early to tell, but Gibbs says this sickness is likely to impact hunting season. This fall’s harvest may be similar to that of a rainy opening weekend. Long-term, it’s expected that hardest hit counties will rebound.
Over the coming months, if you find a dead deer within similar circumstances, you’re asked to report it by calling (423) 587-7037 or toll free at 800-332-0900. If the deer is sick, you’re asked to report it to TWRA as soon as possible so rangers can do testing before organs begin breaking down.