EHD outbreak in Montana whitetail prompts tag reduction

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Deer disease causes cutback in permits.

The Associated Press.

HELENA (AP) — State fish and game officials Thursday reduced the number of white-tailed deer permits available in two Eastern Montana hunting regions because a deadly virus has killed hundreds of deer.

The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission decided to withhold 2,000 of the remaining 3,500 surplus white-tail “B” permits that would otherwise be available in Region 6, which covers north-central and northeastern Montana.

Those already holding such tags will be limited in where they can hunt to all or part of eight districts in the eastern half of the region. Refunds are available.

The commission also decided not to offer for sale any of the 177 surplus “B” permits in Region 5 in south-central Montana.
‘A’ tags OK
The actions do not affect holders of the more common “A” tags.

The commission’s move came in response to reports of a virus called epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD. The disease is spread through the bite of gnats and can kill a deer in one to three days.

Deer may survive longer, but become lame, lose their appetite and become lethargic.

The disease cannot be passed to humans through contact with or eating an infected animal. EHD usually diminishes with the first killer frost that wipes out gnat populations, an event that is expected to occur any day.

Harold Wentland of Glasgow, wildlife manager in Region 6, said he believes EHD has killed half the white-tailed deer in the region. Reports from more than 100 landowners indicate about 700 dead animals.

The reduction in permits is not a matter of trying to preserve the health of the white-tail population, he said. “The white-tailed deer will recover. It won’t kill them all. Populations will rebound.”
Rifle season Oct. 21
Selling fewer tags is an attempt to curb the number of frustrated hunters who will find white-tailed deer harder to find because the death toll, Wentland said. The general rifle season starts Oct. 21.

Most of the carcasses in Region 6 are being found in the western half, along the Milk River and its tributaries, Wentland said. In Region 5, the Yellowstone Valley below Reed Point and the Musselshall drainage below Ryegate are hard hit, said Don Childress, state Wildlife Division administrator.

He also said EHD deaths have occurred this fall around Roy and Winnett, and near Fort Benton and Great Falls along the Missouri River. Although not a substantial loss, the latter outbreak is the farther west the disease has ever been found in Montana, Childress said.

Wentland said he has seen outbreaks of the disease in the past, but not as extensive as this year. The unusually warm, dry autumn helped gnat populations flourish.

EHD, which can cause spontaneous hemorrhaging in muscles and organs, is most common in white-tailed deer but can affect mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep. The disease has occurred in recent years in Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming and New Jersey.
 


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