TIMES COLONIST — The provincial government is tracking the outbreak of a possible new deer disease after the deaths of more than 60 of the animals on at least two Gulf Islands.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations, and Rural Development says adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD) is suspected as the cause of death, but further testing is needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Although there is no known human-health risk from the virus and no evidence that it can be transmitted to human beings, hunters in the area are being advised not to consume meat from animals found dead, obviously ill, or acting abnormally before death.

The ministry says AHD is not transmissible to livestock and pets.

A network of wildlife professionals has assisted provincial wildlife health staff in investigating the possible emergence of AHD since deer were discovered dead on Galiano Island in September. Samples from the animals were sent to Canadian and United States laboratories to confirm the cause. Suspected cases were also found on Mayne and Parker islands.

Since the disease’s discovery in California, AHD cases have been recorded in the western United States annually. There are current outbreaks in California and Oregon, but B.C. has never documented the disease.

Mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, and caribou are all susceptible to the disease, but members of the black-tailed deer family, including mule deer, appear to be most severely affected, said the ministry.

In addition, fawns are far more susceptible than adults and suffer much higher rates of death. The disease is usually rapid and fatal because the virus damages small blood vessels in the lungs and intestines.

Acute signs of the disease include difficulty breathing, foaming or drooling from the mouth, diarrhea, and seizures.

More chronic symptoms include ulcers and abscesses in the mouth and throat. Anyone observing deer displaying these signs should report it to the Wildlife Health Laboratory at 250-751-7246.

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