"Bayou Bill" Scifres
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EHD Infecting White-Tailed Deer
Copyright © 2006 by Bill Scifres

A viral disease called EHD appears to be infecting, and often killing, wild white-tailed deer in West-Central Indiana.

EHD is not normally found in domestic animals, and is not transmissible to humans.

Hoosier hunters and hikers have recently been finding and reporting to the DNR an unusual number of dead wild deer in Greene, Clay, Owen, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion, Fountain and Vigo counties.

Outdoorsmen and women have discovered as many as 30 dead deer while hiking or canoeing along stretches of streams. Initial investigations by DNR biologists point to a viral disease called EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease), transmitted by small flying insects called biting midges.

DNR biologists have submitted tissue samples to the Purdue Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab for confirmation.

EHD causes severe, flu-like symptoms in the deer, including a high fever. This causes infected deer to seek open water in streams or ponds to cool off. Many of the reported dead deer were found near water.

Sick deer may lose their appetite, coordination and their fear of normal dangers. Animals become dehydrated and progressively weaker, with mouth and eye tissue often showing a rosy or bluish color. A significant percentage of deer that contract EHD die within one to three days.

Indiana deer hunters are asked to observe deer they intend to take for a brief time. If the deer's posture or behavior indicates the deer may be sick, don't take it. There appears to be no risk associated with direct exposure to or consumption of an EHD infected deer.

Use common sense when cleaning and preparing any deer. Never kill or eat a sick deer. Use rubber gloves. Be sure meat is cooked thoroughly to kill any bacteria or organisms that may be present.

EHD usually affects local deer populations until the first hard frost, which kills the biting midges that spread the disease. The last major Hoosier EHD outbreak occurred in southern Indiana in fall 1996.

Reader Input

Howdy Bill,

I live in the dewnbachs of Wabash County. The relatively warm winter was gentle on the paw paw buds. The ones in the front yard were covered in blooms. Each branch tip had 5 blooms on it. Of course fruit did not set on each one, but I am close to two bushels of paw paws so far. I've yet to check the big old trees.

Well I do have a question for you. What in the world is a hickory jack?  You see I have been giving talks on mushrooms for at least 10 years, and people keep bringing up the common name of hickory jacks. No doubt I have picked 'em, but I'm not sure. What genus/species are we talking about? 

I have been finding lots of Hericium coralloides/bears tooth. Quite good baked with ham and cheese. I have been harvesting Honey Mushrooms for many years. We try to make mushroom lasagna once a year with them. A layer of sauce, a layer of mushrooms, a layer of pasta and cheese, and repeat. Double Yum! Its been a good fall 'shroom wise. So far I have picked shaggy parasols, prince (agaricus agustus), Honeys, puffballs, hedgehogs, oysters, fragrant chantrelles, two colored bolete, slippery jacks, Reddening Lepiota (one of my favorites), Smooth Lepiota (it looks just like the Amanita, Destroying Angel (which I found again this fall), Purple-gilled Laccaria (very firm), and many others. I have yet to find any Aborted Entolomas which are very good. If you are in a patch of honeys and start finding these white wads around next to some grey Entolomas, grab 'em up. They will be free of bugs and dirt. Pretty tasty with eggs & bacon.

I always tell people that the real mushroom season is in Aug. through Oct.  That's when you can find a myriad of 'shrooms. All that you will find worth eating in the Spring are the Morels and some spikes. Happy hunting! ­ --JM

Our thanks to JM for the dissertation on mushrooms I do not eat or recommend. Wild fungi can affect the human body in many ways. Find what your body likes and dislikes. The safest way to eat wild mushrooms--or anything else--is to take great care. But there are many species of edible mushrooms. Fall does produce some very good mushrooms, but one could be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of the state on a three-cornered rail for the mere public suggestion that there is a fungus better than morels.

All columns, essays, and photos are copyrighted by Bill Scifres and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission from the author.  For reproduction permission and media usage fees, contact: Bill Scifres, 6420 East 116th Street, Fishers, IN 46038, E-mail: billscifres@aol.com

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