2017-09-09 / Outdoors

Wolf Tracks

Outdoor Columnist
Dave Wolf

As readers of Wolf Tracks know, we make occasional forays to Pennsylvania’s elk range, where there is always plenty to see and do.

During last week’s visit, the threat of a potentially devastating disease, chronic wasting disease (CWD), had begun to enter the discussions by tourist promoters, hunters and game managers.

Interestingly, on this trip we encountered more deer than usual. We were greeted on most days outside our bed-and-breakfast by several mature does with very rambunctious fawns. We couldn’t help but wonder what could happen if CWD gets a foothold in the region.

Meanwhile, whitetails in southwestern Pennsylvania face another potential killer, as we were reminded when an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) was confirmed on Aug. 17. It led to the demise of almost 450 deer as of that date, with more fatalities expected.

This viral disease cannot be contracted by humans, but could threaten livestock. EHD differs from CWD in that it cannot be spread deer-to-deer.


This modest-sized buck whose antlers were still covered with velvet almost escaped the columnist’s lens, but a slight motion drew his attention. Deer seem to be more plentiful and are they’re on the move across the region, so drivers should be on the lookout. 
Dave Wolf photo This modest-sized buck whose antlers were still covered with velvet almost escaped the columnist’s lens, but a slight motion drew his attention. Deer seem to be more plentiful and are they’re on the move across the region, so drivers should be on the lookout. Dave Wolf photo Symptoms include a disheveled appearance, drooling, disorientation, and bloody patches of skin. Infected deer are frequently found near water, and die from extensive hemorrhages in five to 10 days.

The last major EHD outbreak in southwestern Pennsylvania was in August 2007. By November, upwards of 2,000 wild deer had been infected and died in Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

The epizootic hemorrhagic virus is common among North American deer, but the disease occurs more frequently in southern states where the small flies that carry it, generically called midges, live longer. The insects die off with the season’s first frost.

The Game Commission assures us that there is no evidence EHD can lead to longterm negative impacts on deer populations.

Lastly, the locals in northcentral Pennsylvania were eager to talk about the upcoming hunting seasons. Some of them pointed out that there has been an uptick in whitetails being struck by motor vehicles, which suggests the size of the deer herd may have grown.

Please remember to slow down during the evening hours when the deer are most likely to be moving. To see more deer, look for a flick of a tail, or a horizontal shape when observing the surrounding area. It might be a log, but quite often it can be a deer, standing “stock-still” to blend in with the surrounding vegetation.

We observed that the forests through which some of the region’s dirt roads pass are more mature, and regeneration has been strong and steady. That, of course, has a major impact on the deer herd. There also appears to be ample natural food supplies with a bountiful mast crop. That also bodes well for hunting prospects.

It was the elk range that attracted us and our trip was a big success in that regard, too. But it’s the love of deer that energizes and motivates us.

When there’s talk of disease or any other threat to the species, we must all be prepared to do our part for the benefit of our children, grandchildren and those who follow.

(Dave Wolf can be reached by email at wolfang418@msn.com.)

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