Twenty-two cases of fast-spreading deer disease confirmed on islands

A fast-spreading virus has killed at least 22 deer on ­Vancouver Island and several Gulf Islands since the beginning of the year, according to the ­province.

Last fall, the Ministry of ­Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development said it was tracking the outbreak of a deer disease after the deaths of about 60 deer on Galiano, Mayne and Parker islands.

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Since the beginning of the year, the remains of 36 deer were examined and 22 were found to have adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD), the ministry said.

“We will continue to investigate the spread and persistence of this disease,” it said in an email.

Last week, the Seattle Times reported dozens of deer deaths in the San Juan Islands. Wildlife officials received about 50 reports of afflicted deer, and ­tissue samples sent to a ­Washington State University laboratory for testing found AHD.

The disease first emerged in California in 1993 and has been recorded in the western United States annually. This is the second time AHD has surfaced in Washington state. B.C. hadn’t recorded any cases of the disease before last fall.

There is no known human-health risk from the virus and no evidence that it can be transmitted to human beings. AHD is not transmissible to livestock and pets, the ministry said.

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.

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

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.

The ministry is interested in collecting more samples for ongoing surveillance. It is asking the public to report deer of any age with signs of difficulty breathing, drooling, foaming at the mouth and dark-coloured diarrhea.

If someone thinks a deer has the disease, they can call or email wildlife ­veterinarian ­Caeley Thacker at or 250-751-3234.

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