Outdoors Notebook: Deer disease continues to spread

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Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) has been confirmed in another Western Pennsylvania deer. Following a report of suspiciously dead deer in Penn Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials put down the deer, which appeared to be sick, in order for a viable sample to be collected within 24 hours of the animal's death.

The recent outbreak is believed to have begun weeks ago, and EHD was first identified Sept. 7 in a deer carcass collected in Beaver County. A sample from Cambria County was inconclusive, but EHD is suspected. The agency is awaiting results from additional samples collected in Allegheny, Westmoreland and Greene counties.

Contrary to a previous report, EHD is not always fatal to deer. Some survive and retain immunity to the disease, but there's no evidence the antibodies are transferred to offspring.

EHD can not be contracted by humans. An early antlerless-only archery season opened Saturday in parts of Allegheny, Beaver and Westmoreland counties, and while venison from infected animals is unpalatable, no consumption advisory has been issued.

"There are no management actions or practices to prevent or limit mortality caused by EHD," said Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, in a written statement. "Fortunately, EHD should be curtailed with the first hard frost, which will kill the midges that are spreading the disease. EHD is a seasonal disease and the affected local deer herd can rebound quickly."

An EHD information link has been posted on the Game Commission's homepage at www.pgc.state.pa.us. Report sick or dead deer at 724-238-9523.

Aggressive bear alert

An unusually aggressive black bear was reported in West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest, about 200 miles south of Pittsburgh. The U.S. Department of Agriculture described its as "a large bear that doesn't have a lot of fear of people. There is also a mother bear and cubs roaming around Summit Lake Campground."

In Pennsylvania, where the bear population is estimated at 18,000, there is no record of a free-ranging bear killing a human, and fewer than 25 bear-related injuries were reported since 2002. Nevertheless, caution is warranted especially when bears search for food to bulk up for hibernation.

Otter attack

A fisherman wading wet at the juncture of French Creek and the Allegheny River in Franklin, Venango County, was attacked by a river otter Tuesday. He received medical attention for six bites and scratches. The animal was not found. If you've seen it or have information about the attack, call 814-432-3187.

Fish kill

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is investigating the death of about 200 white suckers, a few walleyes and one northern pike at Youghiogheny Reservoir between Big Bend Boat Club and Mays Point. To maintain navigation levels on the Monongahela River, which is fed by the Yough, the Army Corps has been releasing water from the reservoir, and the pool is 20 feet below the normal seasonal level. A water survey Sept. 5 detected high pH and dissolved oxygen levels during the day and low levels at night. An absence of oxygen, called "anoxia," was discovered at 35 feet, which the Army Corps said is the shallowest depth on record.

Toxic algae

An algae bloom spreading on the Allegheny River in New York is harmful to the health of humans and pets. The New York State Department of Health identified the toxic blue-green algae at Allegheny Reservoir north of Pennsylvania's Warren County.

Blue-green algae can create toxins that cause reactions similar to allergic rashes and skin irritations. In severe cases it can cause liver or nervous system damage. Children and pets are most vulnerable, and livestock and fish can be affected. The Army Corps, New York and the Seneca Nation are investigating and posting health warnings, and anglers and other visitors are encouraged to avoid impacted areas.

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