Oct 8 A mysterious die-off of more than 400
whitetail deer along a Montana river corridor has been traced to
a viral hemorrhagic disease transmitted by tiny biting flies,
officials said on Tuesday.
The department of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks last
month began to receive reports of dozens of deer carcasses in
wetlands along the Clark Fork River west of Missoula, alarming
local residents and wildlife officials.
Testing of organ and blood samples by a state lab showed
that epizootic hemorrhagic disease was behind the deaths, agency
biologist Vickie Edwards said in a statement.
The outbreak marked the first time the disease, which has
devastated whitetail herds in states such as Michigan, has been
confirmed west of the continental divide in Montana, she said.
The virus is carried by tiny biting flies that hatch near
bodies of water. It mostly affects whitetail deer and is often
fatal to them, causing hemorrhaging of such organs as the heart,
liver and spleen about a week after an infectious bite.
Outbreaks in whitetail deer were first documented in 1955 in
New Jersey and Michigan. The virus was behind an epidemic in
Michigan last year that killed nearly 15,000 whitetail deer.
That compares with 300 felled by the disease the year before,
according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
Humans have not been shown to be affected by the disease,
which has no treatment.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky)