‘Zombie Deer’ Are Now Showing Up All Over Ohio

by Shelby Scott

Deer season is right around the corner, but some Ohio hunters might just encounter some unusual prey as a number of “zombie deer” have begun showing up across the state.

According to KATU 2, an affiliate of ABC, 13 Ohio counties thus far have confirmed cases of “zombie deer.” In actuality, these animals are suffering with cases of EHD, or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. So far, cases have been spotted in Athens, Butler, Champaign, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Madison, Perry, Preble, Ross, Union, and Warren counties.

Per the outlet, common symptoms exemplified in deer populations include disorientation and a lack of fear of humans. They may also appear feverish with significant swelling in the head, neck, tongue, and eyelids, and potentially show signs of respiratory distress.

Earlier this week, Colerain police officers encountered a deer that had been struck by a vehicle. Officers, who arrived with sirens blaring, made noise and shouted at the deer to stir up a reaction. However, the typically skittish animal never reacted and continued staring dazedly into the distance.

Recalling a second encounter with a zombie deer, Lieutenant Laura Fening with Oxford Police said, “The deer was panting and there was blood coming from its eyes, or at least one eye, and had swelling in its face, which putting all those together it was indicative of this EHD.”

With cases of EHD likely to rise throughout the season, authorities are asking Ohio residents to report any sightings of zombie deer at wildohio.gov or to a local wildlife officer.

Zombie Deer: A Result of CWD or EHD?

Ohio has already seen a significant number of zombie deer stricken with EHD. However, cases of the often fatal disease have popped up in other areas throughout the Midwest.

These unnerving deer are most frequently seen across the Southeast United States. So their spread to Ohio and neighboring regions has worried wildlife experts. Further, summertime heat continues to plague many U.S. states into what we typically consider fall months. As such, the disease’s originators, known as “no-see-ums” or gnats, are likely to breed more. These pests then further infect whitetail deer populations across the Midwest.

Fortunately, experts state that EHD does not transmit to humans or pets. That said, deer continue to battle two often deadly diseases, the other known as Chronic Wasting Disease. Addressing the two deer killers, Michael Tonkovich, Ohio’s Division of Wildlife Administrator, said, “The unfortunate label [zombie deer] originated with another serious, always fatal deer disease – Chronic Wasting Disease.”

CWD plagued many deer populations across the U.S. last year. However, Tonkovich insisted this year’s outbreak comes from a “hemorrhagic disease, not CWD and surely not some Z-disease.”

Scientists are hoping that with numbers of zombie deer increasing, and hunting season weeks away, an early frost ends the spread of EHD.