It started with a simple Tweet. Outdoor icon Michael Waddell shot the following to his nearly 20,000 Twitter followers on Sept. 1:
“Headed to MT soon. Bad news EHD hit the river and supposedly killed alot of the deer. I will have a report soon.”
The “report” he promised wasn’t good. Turns out it continues to get worse in Montana. Call it blue tongue, call it EHD, it doesn’t matter what you call it – its outcome is devastating.
Blue tongue, or epizootic hemorrhagic disease, appears to be the culprit. And the aftermath of it, once complete, appear to be headed toward near disaster for the whitetail deer herd in many areas of the state.
Waddell reported, via Twitter, seeing only “10 to 18 deer where we typically see 100.” That report, coupled with many outfitters accounts along the famous Milk River have numbers pegged at between 80-90 percent decimation. That’s extremely sad for a state that has been quickly becoming a favorite destination for whitetail enthusiasts.
That also puts numbers where there probably should be little hunter harvest for the next several years to allow for rebound. It will take plenty of time, based on what I’m reading.
For those wondering, here is what I’ve learned about EHD:
First Blue Tongue and EHD, by definition, are different. Blue Tongue is really the sister disease that affects livestock. Regardless, in it’s most slang sense, hunters know what it means.
It’s a contagious virus affecting deer and is spread by gnats. It is most found near waterways and standing water encourages its spread. While most biologists recommend you discard the carcass of a dead animal found with questionable symptoms, there are no known spreads of the disease to humans.
You’ll likely be seeing more about the actual outbreak in Montana in the coming months (I’m sure whitetail magazines are gearing up coverage), however the true impact of its destruction will surely be felt by hunters in that region for many, many years to come.
That’s tough – especially for someone who has long dreamed about glassing those endless prairies for a Milk River whitetail to put a strategy to. I wish the herd, and the hunters impacted, the best.