FWP workers tell NBC Montana that the confirmed death toll from the EHD outbreak in the western Missoula Valley is up to roughly 450 to 475, though the outbreak appears to be coming to an end. Crews cite recent cold temperatures as being a possible deterrent to the virus’ spread, as cooler conditions likely killed off many off the bugs, known as midges, that spread the virus.
The outbreak is the first of its kind in western Montana, and FWP staff don’t know if next year will see a repeat.
EHD stands for epizootic hemorrhagic disease, and the majority of the whitetail deer deaths have been in the Clark Fork River Valley west of Missoula, from Harper’s Bridge to roughly 10 miles downstream, as well as in the Mill Creek area northeast of Frenchtown.
The EHD virus occurs naturally, and is not spread from deer to deer. The condition causes hemorrhaging in whitetail deer, and the dead deer are typically found near water. Livestock can sometimes catch EHD, but rarely show symptoms.
FWP workers say crews appear to be finding deer lately that have been dead for quite some time, though landowners are just now finding the animals.