EHD outbreak in deer reported in Rochester Hills

Diseased deer found dead near water across Michigan

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published September 22, 2021

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ROCHESTER HILLS — The Michigan Department of Natural resources is asking hunters, hikers and others who frequent the outdoors to report sightings of dead deer near water after two deer from Rochester Hills tested positive for epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.

“Deer started showing up in the river. They were dropping in people’s ponds and in retention basins. … They almost always die near water,” said Rochester Hills Naturalist Lance DeVoe.

At press time, over 50 deer were reportedly found deceased near water throughout the city. Two were sent to the DNR for testing and were confirmed to have EHD.

“The real hot spot is the square between Crooks, Avon, Adams and Hamlin. In Christian Hills, there were three-four dead deer there, and there were three or four at Innovation Hills,” DeVoe explained.

The sometimes fatal viral disease is transmitted from deer to deer by a small biting fly called a midge. Severe cases of EHD dehydrate the animal and cause fevers, causing them to seek water, where they are then found dead. There is no evidence that humans can contract the EHD virus, according to DNR officials.

The city’s parks department recently received a call from a woman who saw five dead deer in the Clinton River while kayaking a 2- to 3-mile stretch.

“That’s not normal, unless you have a disease outbreak. It’s just going to continue to get exponentially crazier here in the next few weeks,” Rochester Hills Naturalist Lauren Oxlade added. “It’s ramping up to be, what we think, is going to be a really big problem.”

Additional reports of dead deer near water in areas in and around Oakland County, and in southwest Michigan, have been reported to the DNR.

DeVoe said dead deer from Troy and Oakland Township have been submitted to the DNR for EHD testing, but the results were not available by press time.

Over the years, he said, there have been sporadic outbreaks of EHD in Michigan, which generally kill between 50 and 1,000 deer per year in isolated areas.

In 2008, a large outbreak killed between 150 and 200 deer in Oakland and Macomb counties. Additional documented outbreaks have been reported in deer in other areas across Michigan over the years, all of which have occurred during late summer and early fall, August-October, and ceased within two weeks of the onset of frost, which kills the midge.

The city of Rochester Hills wants residents to be aware that the EHD virus is responsible for the recent deer deaths in the city.

“Three or four deer died in Innovation Hills at the new park, and people were thinking that the water was bad or they were being poisoned,” said DeVoe.

“The last thing we want are a bunch of rumors circulating about contaminated water, which is not the case,” Oxlade added.

Rochester Hills residents are urged to report dead deer found near water to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department at (248) 656-4673.

Residents of other Michigan communities who find a deer they suspect may have died from EHD are urged to call the DNR’s Wildlife Disease Lab at (517) 336-5030 or report the information online via the DNR’s Diseased Wildlife Reporting database at www.michigan.gov/EyesInTheField.

A representative from the DNR did not return calls for further comment at press time.

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