As local hunters prepare for this Sunday's start of the bow season, it appears something else may be targeting the county's deer population.
EHD, or epizootic hemorrhagic disease, has started to appear in deer populations across western parts of Indiana, one of the state's top wildlife officials confirmed Thursday.
Jim Mitchell, DNR's state deer management biologist, told the BannerGraphic that many counties, including Putnam, have reported recent cases of EHD in local herds.
Several cases have also been reported in Parke, Vermillion, Greene and Sullivan counties, Mitchell said, and more are anticipated.
The Ohio Division of Wildlife's website lists EHD as the most significant disease affecting white-tailed deer in the United States.
Mitchell did not appear to be surprised by the reports of EHD due to the fact that Indiana lies in the middle of an area of the country that typically experiences this type of activity.
States to the northwest of Indiana, where EHD is less common, tend to see higher numbers of deer deaths -- in the thousands -- because the animals haven't built up an immunity. Southern states, where EHD is almost an annual occurrence, tend to see far fewer deaths.
"This year we'll be losing a few hundred," Mitchell said of the state's deer.
In 1996, Indiana experienced what Mitchell defined as an outbreak, beginning with high numbers of deaths in cattle followed by large numbers in deer. He does not consider this year to be an outbreak.
According to Mitchell, deer contract the potentially fatal disease through the bite of an infected midge, or gnat-like fly which tends to be more prevalent in the early fall.
Symptoms of EHD, which Mitchell says are similar to "Bluetongue," can appear in as little as one day and include high fever, pronounced swelling of the head, neck, tongue and eyelids, respiratory dysfunction, and internal bleeding.
Deer that have died from EHD are often found near bodies of water and have few, if any, visible signs of illness, Mitchell said. Other animals can get EHD as well, but it seems to affect deer the most.
Local hunter Don Bain contacted the BannerGraphic this week with concerns that infected deer could prove dangerous to humans, especially if the animals are butchered.
But Mitchell says hunters need not fear if they kill a deer without knowing it is carrying EHD.
"You don't have to worry about it -- period," he said.
At the same time, DNR officials are renewing their warning that hunters should never hunt animals that appear to be sick or worse, pick up ones that have died. Deer can carry other diseases that are a threat to humans.
Nationally, EHD has been reported from Ohio to Washington. The activity tends to slow down after the first frost, however, because the incubation period can extend up to 10 days, hunters are warned to be vigilant until two weeks after the first frost occurs.
As a reminder to hunters, bow season runs from the first Sunday in October to the first Sunday in January.
Firearms season is Nov. 18 through Dec. 3.