British Columbia

New disease suspected to have killed over 60 deer on B.C.'s Gulf Islands

Adenovirus hemorrhagic disease, initially discovered in California, is suspected to have killed over 60 deer on at least two Gulf Islands in September.

The virus is not transmittable to humans, livestock or pets

Members of the black-tailed deer family, including mule deer (pictured), appear to be most severely affected by adenovirus hemorrhagic disease. (Calgary Parks)

A new disease is suspected to have killed over 60 deer on at least two B.C. Gulf Islands, according to the province.

The cause of death is suspected to be adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD), a virus that was initially discovered in California, but has so far never been recorded in B.C.

A Friday news release says the dead deer were discovered on Galiano Island in September, sparking an investigation by wildlife professionals and provincial staff. The province's news release did not say where else the dead deer have been found. 

Samples from the animals were sent to Canadian and United States laboratories to confirm the cause of the disease. There are ongoing AHD outbreaks in California and Oregon. 

According to the release, there are no known human health risks from the virus, however, hunters are advised not to consume meat from animals found dead, obviously ill or acting abnormally prior to death.

It also says the virus cannot be transmitted to livestock and pets.

The disease can affect all cervids including mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou, although black-tailed deer appear to be most severely affected and fawns are far more likely to die if infected.

There is no known cure or treatment for the disease.

Visible symptoms of AHD include difficulty breathing, foaming or drooling from the mouth, diarrhea, and seizures. Other symptoms include ulcers and abscesses in the mouth and throat.

The province asks anyone who sees deer with these symptoms to report them to the Wildlife Health Laboratory at (250) 751-7246.

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