The DEC confirmed an alarming number of deer in the Hudson Valley are dying from a rare disease.

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) confirmed this week that two white-tailed deer in the town of Esopus died after contracting Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD).

The DEC is currently investigating reports of several other dead deer in Dutchess, Ulster, and Westchester counties. From early September to late October 2020, a large EHD outbreak occurred in the lower Hudson Valley, centered in Putnam and Orange counties, with an estimated 1,500 deer mortalities, officials say.

Several white-tailed deer in the towns of Nelsonville and Cold Spring in Putnam County and near Goshen in Orange County died after contracting EHD in 2020.

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DEC wildlife biologists told Husdon Valley Post in September 2020 211 deer from Putnam County, southwestern Dutchess County and northwestern Westchester County as well as another 237 from Orange County, southern Ulster County and northern Rockland County died from Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

EHD is a viral disease of white-tailed deer that cannot be contracted by humans, officials say. The disease is not spread from deer to deer or from deer to humans. EHD virus is carried by biting midges, small bugs often called no-see-ums or 'punkies.' Once infected with EHD, deer usually die within 36 hours, according to the DEC.

EHD outbreaks are most common in the late summer and early fall when midges are abundant. EHD symptoms include fever, hemorrhage in muscle or organs, and swelling of the head, neck, tongue, and lips. A deer infected with EHD may appear lame or dehydrated. Frequently, infected deer will seek out water sources and many succumb near a water source. There is no treatment or means to prevent EHD. The dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for other animals.

EHD outbreaks do not have a significant long-term impact on deer population, officials say. EHD outbreaks occur sporadically and deer in New York have no immunity to this virus. Most EHD-infected deer in New York are expected to die, officials note.

Hunters should not handle or eat any deer that appears sick or acts strangely. The DEC will continue to monitor the situation.

The EHD virus was first confirmed in New York in 2007 with relatively small outbreaks in Albany, Rensselaer, and Niagara counties, and in Rockland County in 2011.

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