LAGRANGE, Ind. (AP) -- Large numbers of dead deer have been found in parts of Indiana after an outbreak of an insect-spread disease made worse by this summer's drought, state wildlife officials said.
Wildlife officials have been receiving daily reports of dead deer recently. Tiffany Dunkel, of Pigeon River Wildlife Area, told the News Sun of Kendallville that one person found 30 dead deer near a pond on a northeast Indiana property.
Wildlife experts blame the deaths on Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD. The viral disease is spread by biting gnats, or midges, that breed well in exposed mud flats.
Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokesman Phil Bloom told Associated Press Tuesday that EHD has been confirmed in LaGrange, Miami, Morgan and Sullivan counties and is suspected in 51 others. The disease also has been identified in captive deer farms and one cattle farm, he said.
Dean Zimmerman, a district biologist for the DNR, said the dry summer was perfect for midge reproduction.
"The midges like to breed in the mud flats," Zimmerman told WLFI-TV. "The rivers are down, the ponds are down, and it exposes some of the mud banks."
The infected deer suffer internal bleeding, dehydration and a high fever, causing them to seek out water to drink and to wade in as they attempted to cool themselves down. That leads to many dead animals being found near sources of water, said Jason Wade, a Department of Natural Resources biologist.
Wildlife officials expect to learn more about how badly the disease has hit the state's deer population from deer hunters during the Nov. 17-Dec. 2 firearms season.
"We will look at the harvest in counties hit hard," Zimmerman said. "This year (hunters) may be able to take eight antlerless deer, or doe, we may have to drop them back to two antlerless deer, or three, next year."
Bloom said the disease is not transmitted from deer to deer and that a hard freeze should stop the spread of the illness.
He said some deer built up immunity and that even hard-hit areas can rebound within a few years.