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As white-tailed deers die off due to a virus, the North Dakota Game and Fish has offered licensed hunters the option for a refund.

As reports continue for increasing white-tailed deer mortality in the western part of North Dakota, the state steward for game and wildlife resources has made the announcement for hunters with valid whitetail licenses to turn over their license for a refund.

License Refunds for White-Tail Deer Hunters

Units eligible for a refund include: 3D1, 3D2, 3E1, 3E2, 3F1, 3F2, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 4F. Hunters who avail of the refund will return their licenses, get their bonus points restored, and if applicable, back to the same number of points before the 2020 deer gun lottery.

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This covers more than 9,000 white-tailed license holders eligible for a refund. According to local news station KFYR-TV, the last instance of the North Dakota Game and Fish issuing license refunds was in 2011, also from an EHD outbreak.

According to Bruce Stillings, big game management supervisor with the Game and Fish, the decision comes after continuous evidence of "moderate to significant white-tailed deer losses" in parts of the state that can negatively affect hunting success.

"While we first received reports of isolated deer deaths in August, loss of deer to this disease appears to have extended into October and covers a large area of western North Dakota," Stillings said. He expressed optimism that the colder weather might likely work to end the outbreak.

Furthermore, Stillings reminded whitetail license holders to make local contacts first and assess the extent of deer mortality in their respective areas before they decide to turn in their licenses. He noted that the population of white-tailed deers has not been "decimated" and that there are still areas that need a good harvest. Also, some affected areas have not yet reported deaths of whitetails due to EHD.

 

An Outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease

The death of white-tailed deer in the area has been caused by epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), a naturally occurring virus from the genus Orbivirus - the Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV). The highly infectious and specifically fatal disease for white tails is spread by biting midges, a small species of flies.

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On the other hand, this disease is not as fatal to mule deers compared to white-tailed deers. Administrators with the game and fish department noted that the onset of winter usually kills the midges that carry the virus and infects the deers, slowing or halting the spread of EHD.

Deers infected with EHD might suffer varying degrees of the disease - peracute, acute, or chronic cases. Generally, epizootic hemorrhagic disease causes infected deers to lose appetite, lose their fear of humans, later becoming weak. They also salivate excessively, with further observations revealing increased heart and respiration rates. Lack of oxygen from the disease also colors their tongue blue. Deers with the peracute form of the disease may fall unconscious and go into shock from 8-36 hours from the start of the symptoms.