Yes, more NJ deer are dying, but frost killed infectious midges
It's been a "very abnormal" year in New Jersey for cases of something called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, which we first told you about several weeks ago.
EHD can be fatal to deer, but poses just a minuscule threat to domesticated animals such as livestock.
As far as humans, because of the way the sickness spreads in the deer population, it is not a public health concern, according to Dr. Nicole Lewis, division veterinarian of the Bureau of Wildlife Management for the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife, which operates under the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"They do not transmit it deer-to-deer, or through fluids or like some of these other diseases," Lewis said. "It's a different type of virus in the way that it acts."
Specifically, EHD is seasonal and cyclical, according to Lewis, and is transmitted only through the bite of an affected midge.
When the first hard frost of the fall happens, the midges die, and so does EHD -- until the weather warms up again the next year.
In 2020, eight dead deer were documented in the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge in far North Jersey, but Lewis said that beginning in August, that number has been far outpaced in 2021.
But New Jersey officials have actually been tracking EHD cases in deer since at least 1955.
"This isn't something new, but this number of dead deer certainly is," Lewis said. "Hopefully this disease actually will start to disappear now, but we had a really severe outbreak of it this year due to our weather patterns."
EHD impacts a deer's nervous system and causes a high fever, which is why those who die are usually found near bodies of water, because they are trying to cool down.
There is an online form where you can report a sick or dead deer to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, should you encounter one.
But Lewis said this cycle is coming or has already come to an end, even though scientists will continue to study how to better protect the deer population in future years.
"There is likely still going to be some cases just in the next couple weeks, with ones that were impacted or affected before the frost, before the midges could die off," Lewis said.
Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email email@example.com.