Virginia Department of Inland Game and Fisheries warns of viral disease killing deer

Bedford, Franklin counties hit the hardest


This time of year, the summer heat is typically gone, which means the sand flies that transmit hemorrhagic disease from deer to deer are starting to die off.

 Not this year, though.

 “We’re closing in on 100 reports from about 28 counties and about 200 deer, so it’s a pretty active year, especially here in the local area -- Franklin and Bedford counties,” Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Regional Deer Project Coordinator Matt Knox said.

Knox said this is helpful for the department.

We didn’t want hemorrhagic disease, but in the long term this could help us reach that deer heard reduction that we’ve been looking for," he explained.

Hemorrhagic disease poses no threat to humans or your family pet.

In fact, meat from a deer that has hemorrhagic disease is safe to eat but experts caution you shouldn't eat them if they look or act sick.

The disease causes deer to have a high fever.

It goes and looks for water. By water, I don’t mean it gets in the water. It lays on the bank on that moist, cold, damp soil," Knox said. "They’ll actually be out of their mind with fever. They won’t run away, they’ll just sit there, and their head will be flopping around.

If you see a deer you think has the disease, call the DGIF.

Don’t put the deer down, as some do get over the disease.


A viral disease has caused the death of around 180 deer across Virginia, and the hardest-hit area is in both Bedford and Franklin counties. 

According to the Department of Inland Game and Fisheries, hemorrhagic disease has been reported in 28 counties. 

Hunters are not at risk of getting the disease, and the disease poses no threat to humans or domestic animals. 

DGIF officials said that outbreaks of this disease are characterized by healthy-looking deer being found dead or dying near or in water during late summer and early fall. There is no vaccine or medication to combat the disease, and the best predictor of the disease is drought. 

Outbreaks reportedly happen annually and continue until the first frost kills the insects that carry this disease. 

Not all deer that contract the disease will die, but they may develop hoof lesions and pain and are more susceptible to pneumonia. Deer that act or look obviously sick as a result of HD or another infectious disease should not be eaten. 

If you have seen sick or dead deer in your area and think HD may be the cause, don't try to disturb, contact or kill the animal. Report the approximate location to the department office nearest you. 

DGIF offices: 

  • Blacksburg (540) 961-8304
  • Farmville (434) 392-9645
  • Fredericksburg (540) 899-4169
  • Lynchburg (434) 525-7522
  • Marion (276) 783-4860
  • Verona (540) 248-9360
  • Charles City (804) 829-6580



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