Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Down Goes a Giant...

Deer season is upon us and with that comes the ancient allure of big bucks. Since the opening of bow season just a few days ago, I'm sure scores of nice bucks have succumb to the arrow. But I was surprised to find this grand 14 point dead from another culprit.

A microscopic virus, carried by nothing more than a tiny little airborne bug, was able to topple this giant. A midge almost certainly transmitted the disease known as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Desease (EHD), now sweeping through portions of Southern Michigan and leaving hundreds of dead deer scattered across the landscape.

Fortunately the disease is not tranmittable to humans, but there's little human intervention can do to prevent the spread of the disease among deer. Afflicting only wild ruminants, the disease does not carry over to other wildlife.

I found this buck at my favorite spot in Barry County, and it's final resting place in the water fits the characteristic symptoms of EHD:

A constant characteristic of the disease is its sudden onset. Deer initially lose their appetite and fear of man, grow progressively weaker, often salivate excessively, develop a rapid pulse and respiration rate, and fever (affected animals frequent bodies of water to lie in to reduce their body temperature) and finally become unconscious. Hemorrhage and lack of oxygen in the blood results in a blue appearance of the oral mucosa, hence the name 'bluetongue'. Eight to 36 hours following the onset of observable signs, deer pass into a shock-like state, become prostrate and die.

As a wildlife photographer, I'm moved by this scene and photo, but also very aware of the profound difference between a standing, live buck and a prostrate, dead deer. There's no comparison.

To think of all the impressive bucks and wildlife that have lived, and died, with no one ever photographing them or taking them as trophies. This is the parallel world of wilderness that lives on, irregardless of the human world.

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