Shocking number of deer die in Hudson Valley

The DEC has confirmed that an alarming number of deer in the Hudson Valley are dying from a rare disease.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed this week that two white-tailed deer in the city of Esopus have died after contracting epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).

The DEC is currently investigating reports of several other deer dead in Dutchess, Ulster and Westchester counties. From early September to late October 2020, a large outbreak of EHD occurred in the lower Hudson Valley, centered in Putnam and Orange counties, with around 1,500 deer deaths, officials said.

Several white-tailed deer in the towns of Nelsonville and Cold Spring in Putnam County and near Goshen in Orange County have died after contracting EHD in 2020.

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DEC wildlife biologists told the Husdon Valley Post in September 2020 that 211 deer from Putnam County, southwest Dutchess County and northwest Westchester County along with 237 others from Orange County , southern Ulster County and northern Rockland County died of epizootic hemorrhagic disease.

EHD is a viral disease of white-tailed deer that cannot be contracted from humans, officials say. The disease is not spread from deer to deer or from deer to humans. The EHD virus is carried by biting midges, small insects often called no-see-ums or “punkies”. Once infected with EHD, deer typically die within 36 hours, according to the DEC.

EHD outbreaks are more common in late summer and early fall, when midges are plentiful. Symptoms of EHD include fever, muscle or organ hemorrhage, and swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. A deer infected with EHD may appear lame or dehydrated. Frequently, infected deer will seek water sources and many will succumb near a water source. There is no treatment or way to prevent EHD. Dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for other animals.

EHD outbreaks do not have a significant long-term impact on the deer population, officials say. Epidemics of EHD occur sporadically, and New York deer are not immune to this virus. Most deer infected with EHD in New York City are expected to die, officials note.

Hunters should not handle or eat deer that appear sick or act strangely. DEC will continue to monitor the situation.

The EHD virus was first confirmed in New York City in 2007 with relatively small outbreaks in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara counties, and Rockland County in 2011.

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