The outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease that is killing whitetail deer in north central Idaho has stayed largely, but not entirely, in pockets of low elevation areas that trace the Clearwater River, its South Fork and the Potlatch River.
Other spots with notable mortality include Lapwai Creek and parts of the Palouse such as Moscow, Troy and Potlatch.
But other areas have either remained free from the disease spread by biting gnats or have seen less-severe outbreaks. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game published a map showing areas where mortality rates have been higher.
Clay Hickey, wildlife manager for the department at Lewiston, doesn’t want to downplay the loss of animals in areas that have been harder hit. But Hickey wants hunters to know there are places deer hunting should be normal this fall — and there are places they might want to avoid.
“If you are going to want to hunt those areas (with higher mortality) or, say, your honey hole is Cottonwood Creek, this may not be a very good year,” he said. “But even for nonresident hunters who are stuck to a unit at this point, they still have the ability to go hunt another area (within the unit.)”
Areas that have seen higher mortality, such as Kamiah, have the ability to bounce back fairly quickly. Following a widespread outbreak in 2003 that may have killed as many as 10,000 whitetail deer in the Clearwater Region, overall success of whitetail hunters and the harvest of animals with five or more antler points was not substantially affected in Unit 10A that year or in 2004. In Unit 11A, hunter success dropped in 2003 but ticked up slightly in 2004. The percent of mature deer in the harvest was about the same. In Unit 8A, both success and percent of five-points in the harvest were higher in 2003 and 2004 compared to 2002.
Hickey said the harvest records from 2003, a more severe outbreak, and the fact that harder-hit areas make up fairly small parts of hunting units, led the agency to leave hunting seasons and regulations unchanged. If needed, seasons could be adjusted for the 2022 season.
The disease is not transmittable to humans. However, according to a news release from the agency, hunters should avoid harvesting deer that appear to be sick or disoriented. Some deer recover from the disease, and they can be consumed if harvested. However, the agency noted the livers from recovered deer can be unusually dark and grainy.
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