It’s time to learn a little about EHD

Black Bear

When people stumble upon deer during the winter that have died, it is usually because they died of starvation or pneumonia. This may indeed be the case. But, nowadays most people’s first thoughts go to the dreaded CWD or perhaps EHD, a disease with which we are not so familiar.

EHD or epizootic hemorrhagic disease is caused by the bite of midges and usually occurs during the summer when these midges are alive. Last winter, in Dauphin County;, many deer, most young deer, were found dead in clusters and so biologists wanted to know what killed them.

Suspicious to them was the fact that large amounts of corn were found in the stomachs and guts of these deer. One of the scientists working on this case said they were shocked at the amount of corn in the belly of each deer.

It seems like a case of well-intentioned folks throwing out large piles of corn, either to bait deer or to “feed them artificially to keep them alive through the winter.” But deer are not able to properly digest sudden quantities of corn into their digestive systems. The corn impacts in their stomachs and eventually kills them. This is one of the main reasons that wildlife officials warn of the danger of winter feeding.

Fields that were as yet unharvested could also be the culprit. Deer will obviously be attracted to such a food source in the midst of bad weather food shortages in the woods.

In the battle of trying to rein in the spread of CWD, things such as salt licks, and bait piles are to be avoided because many deer come to these sites and that’s where the diseases spread among them.

I’ve had various reports of people sighting black bears and wondering how to handle that. My friend Joanie has seen a couple bears this late spring . While I was up there hunting with her this past spring gobbler season, we inadvertently stumbled into a patch of woods that was obviously a bear’s hideout. Thankfully that bear was not there when we bumbled into its lair but the bear scat was so abundant we could hardly avoid stepping on it as we decided to get ourselves out of that area. One bear has adopted a telephone pole along the country dirt road as his favorite scratching post and Joanie figures it is just a matter of time before the electric company will have to replace it because of the damage that bear has caused.

About now, adult male bears are feeling the hormones jingling which signals the start of the bear breeding season. They begin to prowl looking for females that are coming into estrus.

Female bears breed only every other year, as a rule, so year and a half old cubs are suddenly unwelcome distractions if a male bear comes along and decides the sow bear is his target for breeding.

A large male bear will kill the cubs to turn their mother’s attention to him. That kind of grisly business is happening right now throughout Pennsylvania’s forests.

A female bear, who comes into estrus, yet has year and a half old cubs still with her will suddenly turn violent, chasing those cubs away, leaving them no doubt that they are no longer welcome with her. She wants to breed again and the yearling cubs, though able to fend for themselves by this age, are bewildered and frightened by their mother’s suddenly strange behavior. Now they are on their own and have to find a new home.

These young bears, even though weighing 100 pounds or more, are the ones that come strolling into town, trot down Main street or wander into a backyard to raid the garbage cans and Fido’s food dish to get easily available food.

Of course the sight of a bear near town unsettles most folks so they start to chase it, a foolish practice, or try to get photos or to feed it like it was a circus animal. These bears are confused and frightened and usually head for the highest tree of telephone pole they can find where they intend to stay until the furor subsists.

But as long as the animal remains within sight of people they are going to stay around and gawk so then the Game Commission has to be called to tranquilize the poor beast and transport it back to the woods somewhere.

If folks would allow the bear to just pass through town quietly, that’s just what he would do. He’s looking for a new home and he does not want to live in a tree in your backyard for the rest of his life.