Montana wildlife officials say that more than 100 whitetail deer have been reported dead in the west Missoula Valley, in and along the Clark Fork River.
“People are seeing healthy looking deer fall over dead,” said Vickie Edwards, FWP wildlife biologist in Missoula. FWP personnel have collected blood and tissue samples from a number of affected deer and are awaiting the results of laboratory analysis, but most certainly the cause of the death is epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).
Montana hunter Toby Bridges posted this picture from the area: “Along maybe 10 miles of river, there has been a near 100 percent loss of whitetails. If you cruise along that stretch with windows down, you will smell the death all along the way…”
Troublesome is that in Montana, EHD, which poses no threat to humans, has historically only been reported east of the Continental Divide. A severe outbreak in northeastern Montana a few years ago killed almost 100 percent of the whitetail herd along stretches of the Milk River, one of my favorite bowhunting areas. Man, I shot some good bucks and filmed some great TV shows out there. But they tell me it could be another 5 years before the herd along parts of the Milk bounces back enough for decent hunting.
Now this nasty disease has hit the whitetails in western Montana, too. Not good.
The only good news is that by now, a frost or two has likely hit the Missoula Valley and killed the biting gnats that spread EHD, so the 2013 outbreak should be over. How many total deer died remains a mystery.