One of the first deer infected with epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD to ever be reported in northern Cook County was found dead in Palatine near Harper College.
“We’ve never seen it here,” Cook County wildlife biologist Chris Anchor said, “This is a disease that usually does not get this far north in the state.” Typically seen in southern and central Illinois, Anchor said EHD had not been known to northern Cook County until Mid-August.
The first-ever outbreak of the disease is rapidly killing deer, according to Anchor the death toll is now at 100 - that’s 100 dead deer found in northern Cook County in about a week and a half.
“We’re trying to remove dead deer that are in picnic areas, near trials, parking lots, and any animals that died in the water,” said Anchor.
Other than that, there is not much that can be done. “All we can do is sit back and let the disease run its course,” Anchor said. “There is no preventive agent we can use and there is no way to protect the deer."
Deer are infected with EHD by the midge, Anchor said, “It is kind of like a tiny little mosquito or fly type of insect that most people never notice.”
Anchor stressed the viral illness is not transmittable to humans and it is not a threat to domestic animals such as dogs and cats. Deer on the other hand are especially vulnerable to EHD. Anchor said once a deer is bit by an infected midge, the disease progresses quickly and is often fatal.
Within hours of being infected, deer typically lose their appetite and fear of man; the animals then start to droll and develop a fever. Animals infected with EHD frequent bodies of water to lie in to cool off before collapsing from internal bleeding.
Because of its very high mortality rate, EHD can have a devastating effect on local deer populations, dramatically reducing the number of deer. “We will see a drop in local populations like Palatine township,” said Anchor.
With no way to stop the disease, Anchor said, “We are going to see small pockets of deer deaths across the county.”
According to Anchor it’s still early in the season for EHD, which typically spreads from July through October. “The disease is going to persist until we see the first frost,” Anchor said the first frost kills the midge, stopping the spread of the disease by eliminating the carrier.
With no way to stop or prevent the spread of EHD, Anchor said the forest preserve is just trying to keep up with the removal of dead animals. “Our concern is just that we have a large carcass rotting in the water,” Anchor said, “There is no disease concern per say it’s a pollution concern.”
If people see dead animals in a stream, creek or pond, Anchor said they should notify local officials. “It’s just not good for the environment and it’s not good for water quality,” said Anchor.
To report a dead deer on forest preserve property in Cook County, call 708-771-1180.