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What You Should Know About the Most Common Deer Diseases [PICS]

Michigan DNR

With all the hype about deer diseases, it's time you learn the facts.

If you're a sportsman, then you've probably heard about Chronic Wasting Disease and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, but do you know what they are? Would you be able to identify them if you came across a dead deer in the woods?

No? Well you're in luck. Here are the four most common deer diseases, and what you need to know about them.

Deer Disease 1: Chronic Wasting Disease

Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

Chronic Wasting Disease, often called CWD, is a fatal disease that has been impacting deer populations across the country for the last few years. Although there is some speculation about the cause, biologists believe it maybe the result of a prion disease.

When a deer has a prion disease, it has altered proteins that cause other proteins to change, and it spreads very quickly. What we do know is deer with CWD have massive neurological damage caused by small, sponge like holes that develop in the brain. It is spread deer to deer through saliva, feces and urine.

It does not spread to humans, and although there has been much debate, it does not seem to contaminate the meat, although many suggest not to eat it.

CWD spreads quickly and has been know to wipe out a whole herd of captive deer by the time the disease is diagnosed.

CWD can only be officially diagnosed with a biopsy, but here are some signs that a deer may have CWD:

  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal behaviors, such as stumbling
  • Excessive drooling
  • Increase fluid input and output
  • Loss of fear
  • Often, the coat is mangled

Deer Disease 2: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease

Michigan DNR
Michigan DNR

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) is a viral hemorrhagic disease that causes extensive hemorrhaging in deer. EHD is viral and caused by biting midges and is therefore not passed deer to deer. It has a sudden onset and is most often seen in summer and fall when flies are at their worst.

Deer infected with EHD are drawn to water and are often found dead in or around rivers, creeks, lakes and ponds.  Although the deer's meat is not impacted by the disease, these deer are more prone to bacterial infections and abscesses, so it is recommended not to eat.

Here's what it looks like:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of fear
  • Excessive salivating
  • Rapid pulse and respiration
  • Fever

 Deer Disease 3: Bluetongue Virus

Mississippi DWFP
Mississippi DWFP

Bluetongue Virus (BTV) is another hemorrhagic disease and shares similar symptoms with EHD. It too is spread through a biting midge and crests in the summer and fall. One of the telltale signs of BTV is interrupted hoof growth, which shows in cracked and misshapen hooves.

Due to the hoof issues, any deer that contract BTV experience sore feet and therefore have erratic movements when they walk. This has caused the disease to sometimes be called the "Dancing Disease."

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Swollen neck, tongue or eyelids
  • Interrupted hoof growth
  • Erratic movements
  • A blueish tint on the tongue, due to lack of oxygen

 Deer Disease 4: Cutaneous Fibroma

Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

Cutaneous Fibroma, often called Deer Warts, is a skin virus that is typically not harmful to deer. It causes black and/or grayish wart-like growths to occur on the deer's skin, most often where the skin has been previously damaged, typically from fighting.

It is more often seen in bucks than does, and this is believed to be because bucks tend to have more wounds overall.

Most of the time it does not cause any harm to the deer, unless the growths, which can grow up to several inches in diameter, develop near the eyes or mouth. When this occurs, it can cause the deer to go blind or have difficulty eating.

Cutaneous Fibroma does not have any negative effects on the deer's meat and it is still safe to eat.

Here's what it looks like:

  • Wart like growths
  • Skin blemishes covering the face, body, tongue or eyelids
  • Leathery growths black or gray in color

NEXT: This is the Story of the Largest Free-Range Whitetail Ever Harvested on Camera [VIDEO]

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What You Should Know About the Most Common Deer Diseases [PICS]