FWP Investigating Numerous White-tailed Deer Deaths in West Missoula Valley

Over one hundred dead white-tailed deer have been reported in the west Missoula Valley, state wildlife officials say. FWP is waiting for lab results to determine the cause of death and is asking the public to report observations of dead deer to help in determining the extent of the affected area.

FWP first responded to reports from local fishing guides and landowners who reported numerous dead deer in and along the Clark Fork River and fields near and downstream from Harper’s Bridge. Dead deer have also been found in the Mill Creek area northeast of Frenchtown.

FWP biologists and wardens had accounted for 103 dead deer by Tuesday, with deer still dying and more dead deer undetected.

“The deer may show no outward symptoms of disease,” said Vickie Edwards, FWP wildlife biologist in FWP personnel have collected lung, spleen and blood samples from a number of affected deer and await the results of laboratory analysis to determine the cause of the death. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) is a potential culprit.

EHD is transmitted by a biting midge, or gnat, and generally strikes in late summer and early fall. The disease event typically ends within a couple weeks of the first hard frost.

“Hemorrhagic disease viruses are not contagious from one animal to another and are not transmissible to humans,” said Jennifer Ramsey, FWP Wildlife Veterinarian in Bozeman. “Transmission is only known to occur through the bite of the gnat.”

EHD can be manifested as just a few cases, or as a severe outbreak with a very high mortality rate. In Montana, EHD has historically only been reported east of the Continental Divide. The disease poses no threat to humans.

FWP continues to investigate the geographic extent and magnitude of the affected area and asks the public to phone Edwards at 406-542-5515 with observations and locations of dead white-tailed deer.

(Report by Montana FWP; Cover photo: 1234rf.com)