5 Deadly Diseases That Deer Get

By author of Brow Tines and Backstrap

Are You Finding Deer with These Diseases Where You Hunt?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

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1 | Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

This disease is the largest threat to whitetails today. CWD, an always-fatal disease, is rapidly spreading throughout the country. And it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

“There are lots of hypotheses but very few facts we know about CWD,” said Dr. Grant Woods of Growing Deer TV. “There are some seemingly wild stories being spread such as ‘CWD is not a disease.’ It is a disease that as far as researchers know is 100 percent fatal to members of the deer family. There certainly seems to be a link between transporting deer and the spread of CWD. There are cases that have documented CWD-positive deer being moved and then new cases of CWD being detected at the destination. My message is that CWD is a very legitimate concern and that researchers, agencies, and sportsmen need valid information. Detailed research is needed hence funding is needed to protect deer species. They are certainly a national treasure.”

Sadly, there are some out there who are trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Regardless of what some might say, CWD will affect your hunting if it hasn’t already. It is having significant impacts on deer and deer hunters where it’s already prevalent.

“Misinformation campaigns [spread] belief that CWD won’t impact hunting,” said Lou Cornicelli of the Minnesota DNR. “First, the attempt by the farmed cervid industry to cast significant doubt about CWD, including bringing in paid consultants to cast that doubt. Second, some hunters are repeating much of the same information, I think to the detriment of long-term deer health. In some respects, there is a lack of desire to look past the immediate. Given deer are a public resource and agencies are charged with managing populations for the benefit of future generations, I think this is a real problem. A good discussion of how wildlife fits into the concept of Public Trust is important.”

Don't Miss: CWD Is Worse Than We Thought

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Terry Kelly

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Hemorrhagic Disease (HD)

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2 | Hemorrhagic Disease (HD)

This disease, very similar to Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), is a blood-borne illness spread by biting midges (flies). It’s the most prevalent in times of drought when these midges congregate around remaining water sources where deer also frequent. Unlike CWD, HD and EHD are not always-fatal diseases and deer can and are developing immunities to them.

“As of late October 2016, the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) confirmed HD in 12 states,” the 2017 QDMA Whitetail Report stated. “One of the more important findings was BTV outbreaks in Virginia and West Virginia. This strain and its location adds to existing concerns of a gradual northern expansion of HD over time, potentially associated with climate change.”

Don't Miss: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) Hits Hard in the East

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Bruce MacQueen

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Bovine Tuberculosis (BTB)

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3 | Bovine Tuberculosis (BTB)

This is another serious threat to wild deer. It’s a bacterial infection of the respiratory system that has the potential to really impact whitetails. It can take years to develop.

Bovine TB was confirmed in August 2016 in a free-ranging white-tailed deer in Indiana, marking the first reported case of BTB in free-ranging wildlife in that state,” the 2017 QDMA Whitetail Report stated. “Indiana has maintained its federal ‘TB-Free’ status since 1984, though individual TB cases have been discovered in three cattle herds and one captive elk facility since this time. Those cases and others from the four states listed above were from a strain known as the ‘captive cervid strain.’ This is the first documented case of this specific BTB strain in wild deer in North America. Therefore, its behavior in wild deer is unknown.”

Don't Miss: State Prepares to Test Deer for Bovine Tuberculosis

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Jason Yoder

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Brain Abscesses

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4 | Brain Abscesses

Abscesses are bacterial infections. It’s fairly common for whitetails to have brain abscesses. Bucks sometimes experience head injuries (fighting, abnormal antler growth, etc.) that lead to these infections. Most problems start around the forehead and/or antler bases.

This is an illness that continues to affect deer, especially in the Southeast. Oftentimes, deer die from it. Other times, they recover from the unfortunate event. Regardless, it’s something deer will have to continue fighting.

Don't Miss: Did This Buck Have a Brain Abscess?

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Gerald Marella

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Screwworm and Other Parasites

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5 | Screwworm and Other Parasites

This threat comes in the form of fly larvae that is deposited into the wounds of deer and other animals. Once the larvae hatches, it drills down into the live flesh, feeding as it goes. It can lead to death if not properly treated.

A screwworm outbreak in Florida Key deer marked the first time in three decades the parasite has infested a group of animals in the U.S., and the first time in 50 years the insect appeared in Florida,” the 2017 QDMA Whitetail Report stated. “Following the first confirmation in Big Pine Key, the USDA and Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced that the screwworm had also been detected on six additional Keys. Eradication efforts include establishing an Animal Health Check Point at the northern-most Key, releasing sterile adult screwworms, and more.”

Don't Miss: Endangered Florida Keys Deer Euthanized Because of Screwworm Infestation

Photo credit: Shutterstock/Matt A. Claiborne

Editor's Note: This was originally published on June 23, 2017.

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Whitetails are tough critters. They’re faced with numerous threats. Predators and disease being two of the most prominent. Some diseases are new. Some are almost as old as time itself. So let’s dive in and look at five of the most common diseases that continue to plague white-tailed deer today.