COLERAIN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Deer across at least 12 Ohio counties are confirmed to have been infected with Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), and southwest Ohio is seeing an increased number of reports as the summer rolls on. 

What You Need To Know

  • Increasing numbers of deer in Ohio are getting sick and dying from EHD

  • Southwest Ohio is one of the most affected areas of the state

  • Deer expert Mike Tonkovich sees this problem getting worse over the next 10 weeks

  • There is no risk to humans

Colerain Township Police released video of an encounter with a sick deer that they ultimately had to put down. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but it’s assumed this deer was suffering from EHD. 

“The southwest kind of has been a hotbed for hemorrhagic disease cases,” Mike Tonkovich, Deer Program Administrator for the Division of Wildlife, said. “Because it’s relatively new here in Ohio, our deer, most of our deer, are going to succumb to the virus. Oftentimes very quickly, and oftentimes in very, very large numbers.”

He said the bite of an infected midge fly causes EHD and affects mostly white-tailed deer in the United States.

Deer typically die within three days following the onset of symptoms, which include lack of appetite, weakness and an absence of fear around humans. The symptoms also lead to some people referring to it as “zombie deer disease.”

“Just the abnormal behavior, no fear of humans,” Tonkovich said. “I know deer are getting pretty comfortable being around humans, but when they are not alert and don’t appear to be responding to their surroundings, that’s probably most noticeable.”  

Deer with symptoms of EHD may also have pronounced swelling of the head, neck, tongue and eyelids, as well as patchy spots on their fur. 

Colerain Police said they’ve only had the one call so far. But Tonkovich said multiple counties have reports of infected deer.  

“Right now we’ve got confirmations in Franklin, Hamilton, Perry, Athens, Ross, Warren, Butler, Green, Preble, Highland, Union, Champagne,” Tonkovich said. “And we’re waiting on samples at the lab from Sandusky and Marion County.”

ODNR would like anyone who encounters such a deer to report it by calling their local county wildlife officer or by using the online reporting page.

Tonkovich said it is just the start of what’s expected to be a big problem for the deer population.

“Gonna be around until the first frost, so we probably have 10 weeks to deal with this yet,” he said. 

It’s too early to tell, but the spread of EHD might impact hunting season. 

“A couple of years ago, we had to adjust harvest regulations in Jefferson County,” Tonkovich said. “We’re not at that point yet. Of course, obviously, we need to get through a couple of months and we may have to make some decisions there. So that’s you know, that’s where the reporting does go a long way to help us kind of get a sense for where things have been happening.” 

More information on EHD can be found here.