Reports of blue tongue deer disease in Mississippi on rise

Published 5:47 am Thursday, September 30, 2021

Mississippi wildlife officials said Wednesday they’ve received an increasing number of reports of sick or deceased deer over the past few weeks.

Biologists with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks suspect the state may be amid an outbreak of Hemorrhagic Disease also known as blue-tongue. Dr. Bronson Strickland, a wildlife specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension, said hemorrhagic disease is caused by a virus and is transmitted from deer to deer by midges or gnats.
“The virus causes internal hemorrhaging and sometimes rapid death occurs,” he said. “The virus may cause ulcers which can disrupt digestion.”

Strickland said deer suffering from the virus also will get a fever and seek water to cool their body temperature. Deer that die from the virus often are found near water as a result, he said.

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“Far more often, deer become infected but are able to cope with the virus and will have no long-term damage, other than tell-tale indicators they had the virus,” he said. “This is often seen with deer harvested in the fall and their hooves appear to have sloughed off. The fever a deer experiences while fighting the virus interrupts hoof growth, but the hoof will grow back.”

The department’s Deer Program coordinator, William T. McKinley, said HD outbreaks are tracked through reports from hunters and the occurrence of sloughing hooves from harvested deer each season.

McKinley said Mississippi has gone four straight years with low HD virus activity.

To report a sick deer call the wildlife department at 601.432.2199.