BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota's Game and Fish Department is suspending further sales of deer hunting licenses because of an outbreak of a deer disease commonly known as EHD.
The department has been receiving reports of epizootic hemorrhagic disease deaths in the southwestern part of the state, and the 1,000 doe licenses still available will not be issued, according to Wildlife Chief Randy Kreil.
"While we first received reports of isolated deer deaths in August, loss of deer to this disease appears to have extended into September, and depending on the weather, may continue into October," Kreil said in a statement.
The affected area stretches from Bowman to Bismarck, he said.
EHD is a naturally occurring virus that is spread by biting midges. White-tailed deer that are infected almost always die, though mule deer usually survive. The first hard freeze of the season usually kills the midge that carries the virus, stemming the spread of the disease. The virus is not known to harm people.
It's not the first outbreak of EHD in North Dakota. In 2011, deer deaths from the disease occurred well into October and prompted Game and Fish to suspend license sales and offer refunds to the holders of 13,000 licenses in several southwestern hunting units.
Kreil said it is too early to know whether this year's outbreak is bad enough to warrant similar action. A decision won't be made until after the opening weekend of pheasant season in mid-October, during which bird hunters can act as volunteer scouts.
"In the past, it has been helpful to gauge the scope and intensity of an EHD situation when there are thousands of hunters in the field in EHD areas who might observe dead deer along waterways," Kreil said.
A total of 59,500 deer licenses were made available this season. The deer gun season opens at noon Nov. 8 and runs through Nov. 24.