Marine Corps Base Quantico --
Protecting the White-Tail Herd
Due to an uptick of incidences of hemorrhagic disease (HD) among the white tailed deer population aboard Quantico, the Fish, Wildlife and Agronomy Program has cancelled the either sex deer hunting days scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 10 and Saturday, Jan. 7 in the firearms hunting training areas. Only antlered deer in the firearms hunting training areas are allowed to be harvested on these days.
HD is an infectious disease, transmitted by tiny biting flies, commonly referred to as biting midges. The disease is common among white-tailed deer in the southeast United States, and typically appears in Virginia in the late summer/early fall and continues until the onset of freezing weather, when the midges are not active.
Tim Stamps, head of the Marine Corps Base Quantico Natural Resources Section, said the virus can be particularly virulent and some infected deer can die within 24 to 48 hours. The disease he said, erupts at sporadic intervals and is unpredictable as to when serious impacts will affect Quantico deer. Three significant eruptions have occurred in my time at Quantico: 1996, 2012, and 2016.
“1996 was a severe year,” he said. “That year, 30 percent of our herd was exposed.”
This year, he saw the first signs of recurrence in late August, when a fisherman sent a photo of a dead deer floating in Smith Lake. The disease, he explained, causes a high fever. To cool, he said, the deer find their way to the water where they often collapse.
Although potentially fatal to deer, John Rohm, head of Fish and Wildlife Program, said the disease does not pose a threat to humans.
“My understanding is that the deer meat is OK for human consumption,” he said. “There is no evidence that you can’t eat it.”
In fact, he said, many hunters outside of Quantico wouldn’t know a deer is infected – the symptoms aren’t always apparent. However, since all game is inspected at the Game Check Station, Stamps said they have a good idea of disease prevalence. This year to date, he said, 7.5 percent of the deer inspected have exhibited symptoms.
The greatest concern, he said, is protecting the herd, which is already smaller than usual.
“In 2014, there was a small fawn crop,” he said. And the fawn survival rate that year wasn’t great: Some were killed by predators, some were abandoned by their mothers, some were hit by vehicles or other means of accidental death. Those fawns, now 2 years old, are now the lifeblood of the herd. “We are just trying to be cautious.”