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Published: Tuesday, 9/25/2007

EHD threat to deer, but not humans

About 300 white-tailed deer have died in Ohio so far in an outbreak of a common deer virus which, while fatal to deer, poses no threat to humans.

As of yesterday, the Ohio Division of Wildlife had been notified of 298 dead deer, mainly in southeast Ohio's Wildlife District 4.

No cases have been reported in northwest Ohio's Wildlife District 2. Samples from the deer are being tested by the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Animal Disease Laboratory at Reynoldsburg and initial tests have confirmed that the killer is epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.

Some cases of EHD also have been reported in southwest Ohio's Highland and Adams counties, and in neighboring southwest Pennsylvania as well. The archery deer hunting season opens Saturday in both states and on Monday in Michigan, where some cases of EHD were reported a year ago in the southwest Lower Peninsula. So far no EHD cases have been reported this fall in Michigan.

"We've got lots of samples we're waiting for results from," said Mike Tonkovich, Ohio's deer biologist. "Many of the deer we're sending [for testing] are healthy-looking deer. They're dying so quickly."

EHD is not spread from deer to humans and is not related to the more feared chronic wasting disease, or CWD, which has not been confirmed here or in Michigan or Pennsylvania. Deer contract EHD from the bites of gnats, which live near water.

Outbreaks usually occur in drought years, such as 2007, where water sources are severely limited and animals are concentrated around them. The virus also may infect sheep and cattle.

"Most definitely the disease is related to deer and gnats using the same pools of stagnant water," Tonkovich said.

Initially the outbreak was reported in southwest Ohio among just a handful of animals. But now 15 of the 19 counties in District 4 are involved, except for Coshocton, Lawrence, Noble, and Vinton, Tonkovich said.

The onset of cold weather usually suppresses EHD as frost drives the gnats into winter inactivity. The virus first was reported in New Jersey in 1955 and is common in portions of the northern Great Plains and southeastern United States.

Some cases of EHD also are being reported in southern Pennsylvania, also drought-stricken, this year. The virus kills in as little as 36 hours after onset of symptoms, which take 5 to 10 days to show up and may include loss of appetite and fear of man, progressive weakness, excess salivation, and loss of consciousness. Deer hunters, Tonkovich noted, may not notice any symptoms.

Although the disease does not affect humans nor impact the safety of consumed deer, hunters should report deer that appear ill or diseased to the local state wildlife officer. A phone list of officers appears in hunting and fishing regulation pamphlets.

In northwest Ohio Wildlife District 2 can be reached at 419-424-5000.

The big boys are coming to play on central Lake Erie's walleye fishing grounds this week in the $675,850 Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour Championship, the walleye sport's top money event, which will be based in downtown Cleveland at

Voinovich Bicentennial Park, 800 East Ninth St.

The starting field of 53 pro anglers and 53 co-anglers from 15 states and Canada will compete Thursday and Friday, with the top 10 of each of those two days moving on to fish Saturday. The top 10 pros fish Sunday. The winning pro gets up to $150,000 and top co-angler gets up to $22,000.

Jason Przekurat, a pro from Stevens Point, Wis., and the tour's angler of the year, is expecting big catches if the weather cooperates. "If it stays calm and we can fish, I would think 50 to 55 pounds [for five fish] to make the top-10 cut. Roughly 25 to 30 pounds a day should keep you in the hunt. If the weather gets rough, you can expect to see lower weights."

You can bet trolling will be the ticket for tactics, with competitors pulling everything from spinners and worm harnesses to plastic crankbaits. "Finding where the fish are will be the key," added Przekurat.

Canadian waters are off limits in the event, but you can bet that many competitors will be running toward the Lorain-Vermilion area, where larger walleyes are starting to congregate prior to moving closer to the western Lake Erie islands for the winter.

Takeoffs will be at 7:30 a.m. daily from the park, with weigh-ins daily at 4 p.m. at Cleveland Convention Center, 500 Lakeside Ave. East.

The event's pro field includes Toledoan Joe Whitten and Port Clinton's Gregory Yarbrough. The co-angler field includes Toledo's Keith Keivens.

For other details call the Greater Cleveland Sport Fishing Commission, 216-780-1424, or FLWOutdoors, 270-252-1000. Also visit on-line at FLWOutdoors.com.

The Maumee Valley Chapter, National Wild Turkey Federation, is set to host Women in the Outdoors day on Oct. 6, 8 a.m. through 6 p.m., at the Progressive Fishing Association grounds, 8050 Schadel Rd., Whitehouse.

The program is aimed at encouraging women to try new outdoors and other activities in a safe environment with expert instructors. Participants can choose several activities from an array of possibilities, including digital photography, watercolor, kayaking, dog training and hunting, archery, shooting with handgun, muzzleloading rifle, or shotgun, deer hunting and tracking, basic fishing and tackle selection, backyard habitat development, primitive cooking, canning, wine making, Pilates, climbing, and leave-no-trace camping and hiking.

For other details and registration call Rachelle Raymer-Gilbert, 419-350-4150, or Denise Currie-Ghia, 419-874-9282. Or visit on-line at www.womenintheoutdoors.org.

Pamela Dillon, a former deputy chief of the Ohio Division of Watercraft, has been named the division's new chief, effective Oct. 1.

Sean Logan, director of the parent Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said that Dillon is widely respected for her enthusiasm for and support of paddle sports and has a solid background in law enforcement. She joined the Virginia-based American Canoe Association as executive director in 2002 after a 27-year watercraft career, including a stint as a deputy chief from 1996 to 2002.

Dillon succeeds acting chief Michael Quinn, who returns to deputy chief duties. Bill McGarity also serves as a deputy chief.

Note to readers: Outdoors Datebook this week will appear with Steve Pollick's column on Friday.



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