I was checking traps this week and noticed a bunch of vultures coming from the ground. That’s never a good sign. As I peeped over the creek bank, I saw a very good two year old buck – dead and already consumed by scavengers/predators.
A quick check confirmed my suspicions that the buck’s hooves were cracked and sloughed. This buck apparently had the chronic form of EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease). If you are not familiar with EHD, check out this quick fact sheet.
The day I found this buck, Adam and Brian filmed a doe that was harvested by one of our friends at the Redneck Blinds Proving Grounds. She also had sloughed hooves – a survivor (so far) of the chronic form of EHD.
I’ve also had many friends calling from throughout the Midwest that have either found fresh dead deer or had trail camera images of bucks that have already shed their antlers.
Amazingly I read a report last week that EHD was over. That’s incorrect. Anything that stresses deer tends to have a long term impact. In addition, the chronic form of EHD is known to impact deer for months after a frost kills the biting flies that transmit the virus.
The death toll from this year’s outbreak of EHD isn’t over. Deer with the sloughed hooves will have a very hard time escaping predators this winter. As the cold weather makes predators (primarily coyotes) burn more calories and as the population of rodents and rabbits decreases, deer become more and more of a primary food base for coyotes. Deer, even mature bucks, with sloughed hooves due to EHD, have very little chance of surviving this time of year.
The increasing predator population, compared to years ago when fur prices were high enough to encourage trapping, will result in a higher late season death toll from EHD than I was taught in school. The only way to help these bucks is to remove as much stress as possible by making sure quality food is available and reducing the population of predators! That’s my plan.
Growing Deer together,