Deer hunting is a very popular sport here in New York. The archery season opened October 1st and will continue until November 21st when gun season opens. The gun season will run until December 13th, then a late bow season starts on December 14th and runs through December 22nd. During these times deer get pushed around and often out of familiar areas, so vehicle drivers need to be on the alert for sudden deer crossings. At night they may be sneaking across unfamiliar roads to get back to their “home” territory. This is one of those times when drivers need to be very alert to deer “popping out” in front of them.
Another seasonal event that just started with deer is their wandering out of their normal stomping grounds, because some of the does are coming into “heat,” which puts the bucks on the move looking for girlfriends. Last week I noticed more bucks crossing roads at night and the trouble with these guys is they have only one thing on their minds. So, just like guys around gals, they often make some really dumb moves, especially when it comes to roads.
Deer hunters also need to be on the alert, for deer that are not acting normal. We have had four cases of rabies in deer in New York this year, one in Orleans County. This is a deadly disease and any strangely-acting deer should be reported to the DEC and, of course, not eaten.
The raccoon is a big-time carrier of rabies and there is a high population of them now because fur prices are low and not many trappers are going after them. Thus this disease may become more of a problem and so the advice is to stay clear of raccoons and if you have to handle one wear latex gloves.
I have concerns about raccoons causing eagle nest failures where predator guards are not on eagle nesting trees. Right now most of the nesting trees have predator guards but the DEC and federal Fish and Wildlife folks are not putting guards on those trees any more. Raccoons are smart and once they learn there is food up in that pile of sticks they start checking them all out. Last year we lost production on one of our local eagle nests because the guard had been partly ripped off by the wind and a raccoon got up there and destroyed the eggs. You would think that an eagle would have no problem with a raccoon, but the raccoon is a furious animal and at night the eagle has no chance at driving him away from a nest.
Back to the deer: There are several other deer diseases that hunters need to be on alert for.
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first found in New York state in 2005 but has not been found since. However, the neighboring state of Pennsylvania has developed a recent problem, so we could be looking at the same thing in the near future. CWD is a non-treatable and fatal brain and nervous system disease found in deer, elk and moose. Proteins named “prions” are documented as the cause. When a prion enters an organism, it causes existing, healthy proteins to convert to diseased proteins. These prions are shed through saliva, urine and feces of infected animals and healthy deer can pick up the disease by direct contact with the infected animal’s body fluids or by eating contaminated food, water or even soil for up to 18 years.
These prions can be moved by commercial big game farmers, by hunter-killed carcasses or scavengers like coyotes and crows. Currently the DEC has an annual program in place that tests hunter-killed deer for the disease. Deer with CWD may not show any visible signs until it reaches the brain, which could take several months to several years. Signs of CWD include disorientation, loss of bodily functions, extreme thirst, looking thin and sick, or death. Again it is recommended that any strange-acting or strange-looking deer not be consumed.
The third deer disease is Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD). This is a viral disease of white-tailed deer that cannot be contracted by humans. The virus is carried by biting midges, small bugs often called “no-see-ums” or “punkies.” Once infected with EHD, deer usually die within 36 hours. The disease is not spread from deer to deer or from deer to humans. It was found in several counties including Niagara in 2007 but has recently been confined to the southeastern end of the state.
If you use common sense and do not eat any strange-looking or acting deer there should be no problem. If you see a sick or dying deer, it should be reported to the nearest DEC Regional Office or to an Environmental Conservation Police Officer.
Doug Domedion, outdoorsman and nature photographer, resides in Medina. Contact him at (585) 798-4022 or email@example.com .