During my annual pheasant hunt in North Dakota, I usually see lots of whitetail and mule deer. But two years ago, most of our whitetail deer sightings were of dead deer. On one farm, I saw eight freshly dead deer in four days, including the biggest whitetail I’ve ever seen in North Dakota.
I learned that the deer died of HD, hemorrhagic disease. Whitetails die within 96 hours of being bitten by a midge. The virus doesn’t impact mule deer.
Dr. Dan Grove of North Dakota’s Game and Fish Department told me the virus is present throughout the United States, is especially prevalent in southern states, and flares up in North Dakota every four to seven years. That year there were HD outbreaks in many states including South Dakota, Kansas, and Montana.
“The whole (whitetail) population is at risk,” Grove told me in a telephone interview. “There can be large-scale die-offs.”