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Disease in deer leads to hunting restrictions

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Deer hunters in five north-central Montana hunting districts between Great Falls and the Canadian border won't be allowed to use their general deer license to take antlerless deer.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that the Fish and Wildlife Commission made the decision Thursday.

Officials said an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease has taken a toll on the whitetail population. Wildlife biologists said the disease hits whitetail deer populations harder.

But biologists are concerned the drop in whitetail numbers could cause an overharvest of mule deer. The hunting districts are 400, 401, 403, 404 and 406.

"The concern is with fewer whitetail, there would be hunters who would move to antlerless mule deer," said Ron Aasheim, spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Experts say epizootic hemorrhagic disease is a viral disease spread by biting midges. It usually spreads in late summer and fall and occurs in some parts of the state almost every year. The first killing frost usually stops the disease.

Sportsman and landowners have reported dead whitetail deer since late July.

In other action, the commission approved the preliminary acquisition of two parcels of land of about 3 acres near Lewistown for about $150,000.

The commission also approved the acquisition of 21 acres of land on Lower Big Springs Creek near Lewiston for $188,000.

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Information from: Great Falls Tribune, www.greatfallstribune.com

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