Game Commission Looking into Deer Deaths

EYT Media


Published January 1, 1970 12:00 am

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania Game Commission officers are investigating the cause of death for nearly a dozen white-tailed deer found by agency employees on the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area in North Shenango Township, Crawford County. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is suspected, which has been confirmed in Beaver and Westmoreland counties and is suspected in Allegheny and Cambria counties.

Game Commission biologists will attempt to collect samples for testing at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia, which has confirmed deer mortalities from four different strains of the EHD virus in 15 states this year.

The Game Commission will continue to gather samples from other dead deer being found in Pennsylvania. Samples must be collected within 24 hours of the animal’s death to be viable. Once the results are available, which normally takes around two weeks, the Game Commission will release the findings to the public.

“Once again, we are suspecting that the deer died of EHD, based on our field investigations and the fact that EHD already has been confirmed in the southwestern portion of the state,” said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian. “There are no management actions or practices to prevent or limit mortality caused by EHD. Fortunately, EHD should be curtailed with the first hard frost, which will kill the midges that are spreading the disease.”

EHD is a seasonal disease and the affected local deer herd can rebound quickly. It is one of the most common diseases among white-tailed deer in the United States, and is contracted by the bite of insects called “midges” or “no-see-ums.” The virus of EHD usually kills the animal within five to 10 days, and is not spread directly from deer to deer. While EHD is not infectious to humans, deer displaying severe symptoms of EHD may not be suitable for consumption.

Game Commission Northwest Region Director Keith Harbaugh is urging residents to report sightings of sickly-looking deer, particularly those found near water, by calling the Region Office at 814-432-3188. The Northwest Region serves Butler, Clarion, Crawford, Erie, Forest, Jefferson, Lawrence, Mercer, Venango and Warren counties. Residents in other counties are encouraged to contact their respective Game Commission Region Offices. For contact information, go to the agency’s website ( and click on “About Us” and “Regional Information.”

In 2011, EHD was confirmed in Northampton and Erie counties. EHD was confirmed in southwestern Pennsylvania in 2007 and 2002. It also was suspected to be the cause of death in nearly 25 deer in Adams County in 1996, but tests conducted at that time were inconclusive.

“Pennsylvania deer do not usually live long enough to span the time between outbreaks, so they are do not have immunity when the next outbreak comes along, and the disease will be fatal,” Dr. Cottrell said.

Information on EHD can be found on the Game Commission’s website ( by clicking on the “EHD Info” icon in the center of the homepage.

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