Reports of sick deer in Mississippi are on the rise

State / Regional

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Leaders with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) announced the agency has received an increasing number of sick and/or deceased deer reports within the past weeks.

Wildlife Biologists suspect Mississippi may be experiencing an outbreak of Hemorrhagic Disease (HD), commonly called blue-tongue.   

“HD is caused by a virus and is transmitted deer to deer by midges of the genus Culicoides. These tiny, biting insects are commonly referred to as gnats. The virus causes internal hemorrhaging and sometimes rapid death occurs. The virus may cause ulcers which can disrupt digestion. While deer are suffering from the HD virus they will get a fever and seek water to cool their body temperature,” said Dr. Bronson Strickland, Mississippi State University (MSU) Extension Wildlife Specialist. “Deer that succumb to the virus are commonly found near water for this reason. Far more often, deer become infected but are able to cope with the virus and will have no long-term damage, other than tell-tale indicators they had the virus. This is often seen with deer harvested in the fall and their hooves appear to have sloughed off. The fever a deer experiences while fighting the virus interrupts hoof growth, but the hoof will grow back.” 

“MDWFP tracks HD outbreaks via hunter reports and the occurrence of sloughing hooves from deer harvested each season”, said MDWFP Deer Program Coordinator William T. McKinley. “The HD virus is more common in some years and typically follows a 3 to 5 year cycle. Mississippi has had four consecutive years with low HD virus activity. In the Southeastern U.S., HD outbreaks usually result in less than 10% mortality. In other regions of the U.S., outbreaks can be much more severe causing far greater mortality.” 

To report a sick deer visit the MDWFP App,, or call 601.432.2199.

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