Nearly 400 deer have been reported dead in Caldwell County in recent weeks, and experts believe it is the result of a Hemorrhagic Disease caused by a virus that is spread by gnats.
"It is not uncommon for outbreaks to occur in deer populations," said North Carolina Wildlife Resources Biologist Danny Ray. "North Carolina normally is not hit as hard as other southern states," he said.
In 2011 only 3 cases were reported in Caldwell County but experts say an early spring combined with a wet summer has made the gnat population explode and made the disease easier to spread. Ray said not all the deer infected will even show signs of sickness and most that do will survive and develop immunity to the disease.
The hardest hit areas appear to be along Highway 268 towards Wilkes County and in the Collettesville area along the John's River.
"We sure can smell them at night," said Ira Hedrick, who lives in the area. He thinks it will be tougher for hunters to find prey this year. Hunting season opens in just a few days in the area and many are concerned about whether they should be hunting at all.
All counties in Western North Carolina are reporting cases of deer dying but Caldwell County appears the hardest hit, with Wilkes and Surry Counties not far behind in the numbers.
Experts say it is all right to hunt deer, even in years of hemorrhagic outbreaks. "It is okay to eat the deer," said Ray. What he does warn hunters about is eating deer that exhibited signs of sickness such as walking in a stupor and showing no fear of humans. Those deer may have additional illnesses besides the hemorrhagic disease.
Poet and livestock owners should not worry about the disease either. It can only be passed by the gnats and most livestock and pets are not affected by it. Humans will not contract the disease either.
Ray said the problem will continue as long as the gnats are around. "First frost and they will be gone just like turning a light switch off," he said.
Friday, May 24 2013 12:29 PM EDT2013-05-24 16:29:51 GMT
Every week, CBS 5 News is sent a list of restaurants that have been recently inspected by Maricopa County's Environmental Services Department. CBS 5 News selects five restaurants with some of the highestMore >
Every week, CBS 5 News is sent a list of restaurants that have been recently inspected by Maricopa County's Environmental Services Department.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 11:43 AM EDT2013-05-23 15:43:24 GMT
Fallen officer's daughter graduates from kindergarten
Hundreds of Phoenix police officers showed their support for a fallen colleague by attending his daughter's kindergarten graduation in Anthem on Wednesday. Officer Daryl Raetz was killed in the lineMore >
Tatum Raetz, 5, graduated from kindergarten in Anthem Wednesday and hundreds of uniformed Phoenix police officers were there to show their support for the family.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 12:39 PM EDT2013-05-23 16:39:28 GMT
Dan Marco's son was murdered in 2010. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Only people who have lost a close loved one can understand the pain of Travis Alexander's family"My heart goes out to them, because I understand," says Dan Marco, who's son Zachary was murdered in 2010.ZacharyMore >
Only people who have lost a close loved one can understand the pain of Travis Alexander's family.More >
Friday, May 24 2013 2:31 AM EDT2013-05-24 06:31:07 GMT
Jodi Arias (Source: CBS 5 News)
It is now in the hands of the 12 jurors to decide if Jodi Arias will live her life behind bars or if she'll be executed. The defense and prosecution gave their closing statement Tuesday afternoon andMore >
The judge has declared a mistrial in the penalty phase of the Jodi Arias trial. The jury announced late Thursday afternoon that they could not reach a unanimous decision on life or death for Arias.More >
Thursday, May 23 2013 1:33 PM EDT2013-05-23 17:33:26 GMT
Remember the Kmart's "Ship My Pants" ad? Well Kmart isn't finished with their controversial ads. The company launched their latest video about Big Gas Savings on Thursday. It even features the sameMore >
The company launched their latest video about "big gas savings" on Thursday.More >