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A white-tailed deer stands near a residential entrance on Gotham Street near Watertown's Thompson Park this summer. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — There have been 10 cases of a fatal deer disease found in Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties so far this year, an indication that the outbreak isn’t as concentrated as prior years.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation recently confirmed its suspicions that there was Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD, in Jefferson County. Although it’s gotten hunters worried, there aren’t any planned changes to hunting seasons at this time.

About 152 dead deer have been reported to the DEC by the public in Jefferson County, and seven were found to be positive with EHD, a typically fatal disease for deer that is transmitted by biting midges, which are small insects sometimes called no-see-ums or ‘punkies.’ The disease is not spread from deer to deer, and humans cannot be infected by deer or bites from midges.

About 42 deer were reported in St. Lawrence County, with three testing positive for EHD. There were zero dead deer reported in Lewis County.

Steve Heerkens, a DEC wildlife biologist, said EHD is becoming more common in northern parts of the United States.

In New York last year, 1,500 deer were reported, but all were exclusive to the lower Hudson Valley. This year’s outbreak is far more distributed, with many counties experiencing EHD for the first time. As of Tuesday, there were just over 1,900 deer reported statewide, Mr. Heerkens said.

While EHD outbreaks can remove a number of deer from a local population, they generally do not have a significant long-term impact on regional deer populations, he said. Dead deer do not serve as a source of EHD infection to animals or people, and there are no changes to deer seasons planned in the Northern Zone.

There are no tools or management strategies to eliminate EHD, he said. Cold weather and frost limit the activity of the midges that transmit the virus. Colder weather will force the midges to go dormant, stunting the spread of the virus.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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