Residents across southern Ohio have had unsettling encounters lately with what they’ve dubbed “zombie deer.” The sightings of infected deer have prompted many police calls and news reports in the region.
On Aug. 23, Cincinnati’s WKRC-TV reported, “Colerain Township officers were called for a report of a deer on Blue Rock Road that had been struck by a vehicle. Officers found a deer standing and staring off into the distance. It was not startled by noise or even sirens. It had ‘weird’ patches of fur all over its body with discolored skin.”
A week later, police responded to another “zombie deer” report.
“The deer was panting, and there was blood coming from the eyes, or at least one eye, and had swelling in its face,” Lt. Lara Fening of Oxford Police told WKRC-TV on Sunday.
“[P]utting all those together it was indicative of this EHD.”
Infected animals behave in a disoriented manner, showing no little or fear of humans. They appear sick or injured, with pronounced swelling of their head, neck, tongue and eyelids.
Perhaps the most disturbing symptom of all is that some appear to bleed — from their eye sockets.
The disease, thankfully, is not contagious to humans or pets and is not spread among animals.
Other symptoms include respiratory distress, lack of appetite, weakness, circling and other odd neurological signs.
“Once infected, deer show symptoms within five to 10 days, and many deer die within 36 hours of the onset of symptoms,” the ODNR reported.
Authorities said the virus deteriorates in less than 24 hours after death and can’t be spread from deer carcasses, according to the report by WKRC-TV.
While the disease is usually fatal, the ODNR said some deer survive the virus and develop immunity, WJW reported.
It’s a frightening sight for the uninitiated, but it’s a fairly common disease in deer, often occurring in late summer — especially during times of drought.
White-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope are susceptible to EHD, as are domestic cattle and sheep, according to the ODNR. However, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, “EHD does not pose a serious threat to livestock, and infections in those animals are likely to be mild.”
Infected deer have been identified in 13 Ohio counties so far, the Ohio Division of Wildlife told WKRC-TV.
“Deer in the Midwest are at a higher risk because they lack herd immunity, among other factors,” the ODNR reported. “There is little that can be done to protect wild deer from the virus.”
Officials asked that anyone sighting sick or dead deer report it at wildohio.gov or to a local wildlife officer, so the Division of Wildlife can track incidences and perform tests.
Authorities said the cases of EHD will subside with the coming of winter, as a hard freeze kills off the tiny insects responsible for the disease, WKRC-TV reported.
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