Amid the discovery of the presence of AHD in Southern Oregon Blacktail, state officials warn that human interaction with deer in urban environments may play a role in the spread of disease.
Biologists with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife have confirmed that a Coos County blacktail recently died from contracting Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease (AHD). They also suspect that there may be a connection to the virus in several other cases from this past summer.
District Wildlife Biologist Stuart Love explained that his office received several reports of deer dying in yards in the past month, and he suspects they were also victims of the virus. Because AHD is transmitted by direct contact between deer, there is some concern about feeding and watering deer, because it concentrates them in a small areas.
“If these deer died from AHD, then feeding them will potentially spread this disease to other deer rapidly. It’s very important people don’t provide water sources or feed for deer for this reason. Their bodies are built for browse and grass, not grain.”
An outbreak of the virus in California killed several thousand deer in 17 counties during 1993-94. In 2001, AHD was confirmed in one doe from southwest Oregon. The following year, there was an outbreak that spread across Deschutes, Jefferson, and Wasco counties. Biologists estimate that over 400 deer died from the virus in the Crooked River Ranch area and near Sisters, Oregon, between May 9 and August 1, 2002. Love said this is the first confirmed case of AHD in Coos County.
Deer in the southern Oregon town of Ashland have become so accustomed to human contact that Mayor John Stromberg called town hall meetings in order to address problems of aggressive deer. The city council even approved fines of up to $475 for feeding deer within the city limits several years prior.
Even if the deer are not being fed directly, deer are frequently drawn into populated areas by an abundance of food from watered lawns, providing greener grass to munch on during the summer.
Deer with AHD can show clinical signs common to other diseases, such as rapid or open mouth breathing, foaming or drooling at the mouth, diarrhea (possibly bloody), weakness and emaciation.
There are no known cases of humans getting sick from AHD or getting the disease from consuming the meat of a deer infected by AHD, however it is still recommended to wear gloves while handling a carcass and thoroughly cook the meat.
The virus does have potential to affect hunting opportunities. If enough deer die to significantly reduce populations in a unit, hunter success may be low in that unit during the year of the die-off. If subsequent herd inventories indicate reduced populations, low fawn recruitment, or low buck ratios, future tag numbers may be reduced until the herd recovers.