Outdoors Notebook: Deer disease suspected in Beaver, Cambria counties

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Research was still underway Aug. 31 in the unusual deaths of 35 white-tailed deer discovered in Southwest Pennsylvania. The state Game Commission suspects but has not confirmed Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), a virus spread among deer by biting insects. EHD is not contagious to humans or pets.

Most of the infected carcasses were too decomposed for study, said Tom Fazi of the PGC's southwest bureau, but three were suitable for research: a buck and doe found in Greene Township and Ohioville Borough in Beaver County, and a doe found in Summerhill Township in Cambria County. They were shipped for necropsy at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia.

EHD is one of the most common deer diseases in Eastern United States, and outbreaks can kill many deer. In 2011, an outbreak occurred in Pennsylvania's Northampton and Erie counties, and in 2007 thousands died in a large outbreak in the state's southwestern counties. Outbreaks end with the first frost, which kills the insects.

EHD normally kills the infected animal within five to 10 days. Symptoms can include a sickly or haggard appearance, excessive drooling, need for water, unconsciousness and a loss of fear of humans -- similar to the symptoms of Chronic Wasting Disease, but the ailments are unrelated. CWD has not been detected in Pennsylvania.

The recent deer deaths occurred weeks before the Sept. 15 start of the state's first archery deer season, a special antlerless-only hunt that includes Wildlife Management Unit 2B, located between the areas where the infected deer were found. Deer displaying severe symptoms may be unsuitable for consumption, but no venison consumption advisory has been issued.

Fazi said sightings of dead deer or live deer that appear to be sick, particularly those found near water, should be reported to the Game Commission at 724-238-9523.

Cross Creek concerns

An oily sheen spotted on Washington County's Cross Creek Lake was initially believed to have been caused by decaying plant matter, but that is not conclusive. On Aug. 31 the state Department of Environmental Protection was still investigating.

Correction

A Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, or duck stamp, is not required to hunt mourning doves in Pennsylvania, and hunting hours for the Sept. 1-29 season are noon to sunset. A story last week misstated those regulations.

Fish for free

Pennsylvania's final Fish for Free Day of 2012 will be held Monday. Residents and nonresidents may legally fish with no fishing license on all of the state's waterways. All other fishing regulations and private property laws apply.

Erie honors

Presque Ise State Park in Erie County has been lauded as one of America's best state parks for fishing and boating. During the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation's recent "Take Me Fishing" campaign, more than 150,000 anglers and boaters voted via social media. Presque Isle led the voting in the United States' northeast section. More than 3.7 million people visit the 3,200-acre peninsula annually. The foundation reports that since its launch in 2007 the "Take Me Fishing" campaign has generated nearly $30 million for state conservation efforts.

Doe tags

All WMUs are sold out except: 2A (34,561 available), 2B (54,095), 3A (245), 3B (6,220), 3D (5,290), 5C (64,366) and 5D (12,841).

Trout regs

An extended trout season on Approved Trout Waters and all waters downstream runs Sept. 4 through Dec. 31. Minimum size 7 inches, creel limit three combined species.

Laurel Hill geese

Canada goose hunters will have special access to Laurel Hill State Park Sept. 4-25. Picnic areas 3 and 4 will be marked with yellow signs advising visitors of the hunt, instituted to reduce the park's population of resident Canada geese.

More outdoors

Fishing Report Regional fishing outlook Fridays in Sports, always at post-gazette.com/sports/outdoors.

PG Rod & Gun Club Hunting and fishing blog includes reader fish and deer photos, hunter-trapper safety courses, weird outdoors news and more. Find it at http://blogs.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/sports/rod-a-gun-club.

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