Wildlife officials blame virus for dead Oregon deer

MEDFORD, Ore. — Oregon wildlife officials say blacktail deer are being found dead in several rural communities in southern Oregon’s Jackson County, marking the return of a naturally occurring virus that killed more than 1,000 deer in 2002.

The Medford Mail Tribune reports (http://is.gd/4DwotX ) that biologists on Tuesday learned of their first confirmed case of the adenovirus.

Several reports of similar deaths have come from Jacksonville, Eagle Point and elsewhere.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says the deaths are occurring at a rate not seen since 2002, when more than 1,000 blacktails died.

“We’ve had deer die in the past 10 years that we thought were from adenovirus, but now we’re seeing a lot of dead deer,” said Mark Vargas, the department’s Rogue District wildlife biologist. “We know it’s here, and now we know we have another outbreak.”

Vargas says outbreaks tend to happen during hot, dry months. A deer can become infected by breathing air from an infected animal, so well-intentioned people leaving out water and grain for deer facilitate the spread of the disease by bringing animals together in an unnatural way. Most of the dead deer have been found living near people.

Humans and other animals are not considered susceptible to this strain of the disease.

First diagnosed in Northern California in the mid-1990s, adenovirus hemorrhagic disease is believed to have been responsible in the late 1980s for killing hundreds of deer whose deaths originally were attributed to a different disease known as bluetongue. A smaller outbreak occurred in Southern Oregon in 2009.

Infected deer can suffer from mouth sores that keep them from feeding, bloody diarrhea, massive internal bleeding, and fluid in the lungs.

Vargas said dead deer should be buried or taken to a landfill.

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