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Virus is killing Rockland County deer by Ron Kolodziej

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - Updated: 6:56 AM

The state Department of Environmental Conservation has been investigating reports of over 100 sick and dead whitetails in the Town of Clarkstown in Rockland County. Tissue samples from the dead deer were collected by the agency's Wildlife Pathology Unit and sent to the Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center for testing.

The results of those tests are now in. The culprit has been identified as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, a viral disease of whitetails that is transmitted by the bite of a specific midge, known commonly as no-see-ums or punkies.

Presence of the EHD virus was last confirmed in New York state in 2007 in Albany and Niagara counties. Outbreaks are most common in late summer and early fall when the midges are most abundant. Here in the Northeast, the first hard frost kills the insects that transmit the disease and the outbreak ends.

The condition is more common in our southern states but, obviously, it can also be found even here in New York state.

The good news is EHD outbreaks do not have a significant impact on deer populations, except in the immediate area of the outbreak, and those outbreaks normally occur within a specific geographic area. About half of infected deer may die in such an outbreak, but the dead deer do not serve as a source of infection for surviving deer.

Many of the infected deer may die within one to three days after being bitten by the midge, though the disease may also progress more slowly, over weeks or even months. At this time DEC does not consider this a human health issue. Nevertheless, the agency is requesting that hunters and hikers refrain from handling or even approaching any sick deer and report these animals to a regional wildlife office.

For more information on this disease you can go to the DEC website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals. Just type EHD in the subject box and you'll go right to the appropriate area of the site.

TRAIL REOPENINGS

The DEC has announced the reopening of some trails in the Adirondacks. The eastern zone of the High Peaks Wilderness and Giant Mountain Wilderness areas reopened Sept. 8 but, due to damage to certain trails and the closure of a section of Route 73 and other area roads, Dix Mountain Wilderness area and a number of trails in the reopened areas will remain closed. Most trails, however, are now open for public use, sort of.

In the Giant Mountain Wilderness Area open trails include those starting from the trailheads on Route 9 and Route 9N. Giant Mountain may be accessed via the Hopkin Mountain Trail from the Ranney trailhead.

Open trails in the High Peaks Wilderness include those starting at the Adirondack Loj trailhead, the Cascade Mountain trailhead, the Garden trailhead, the Rooster Comb trailhead, the Upper Works trailhead and the East River trailhead.

SOME STILL CLOSED

In addition, all trails out of the Ausable Club remain closed due to the closure of a section of Route 73 and damage to the trailhead parking areas. The Elk Lake trailhead also remains closed.

Keep in mind that even trails that are not closed may have bridges washed out, and water levels in most rivers and brooks are at spring-like levels. Some crossings may also be impassable for a while, until conditions improve. Hikers may also encounter blowdowns, eroded sections or flooded areas.

Also, many trails have been rerouted to avoid heavily damaged sections. Don't put your trust solely in your GPS; the ability to navigate with a map and compass is important.

For more definitive information, the list of closed trails and conditions for open trails is available on DEC's High Peaks Information page at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor.

     

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