Disease Outbreak Strikes California Deer Herds

fawns dfw

[Photo from the Department of Fish and Wildlife]

Press release from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed outbreaks of adenovirus hemorrhagic disease in deer in several northern California counties, and is asking California residents to help curb the spread by not feeding wild animals, and reporting potential cases to the department.

“Providing attractants for deer – food, salt licks or even water – is against the law for good reason,” said Dr. Brandon Munk, senior wildlife veterinarian with CDFW’s Wildlife Investigations Laboratory. “Because these artificial attractants can congregate animals and promote the spread of disease, it’s particularly imperative to leave wildlife alone during an outbreak. There is no cure or vaccine for this disease, so our best management strategies right now are to track it carefully, and to take preventative measures to limit the spread.”

Beginning in May, CDFW began receiving increased reports of mortality in deer, both free-ranging and at fawn rehabilitation facilities. With the assistance of wildlife rehabilitation facilities and the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory, CDFW confirmed cervid adenovirus 1 (CdAdV-1) as the cause of hemorrhagic disease outbreaks in Napa, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Tehama and Yolo counties.

The disease is typically fatal to deer and can be spread by animals in close contact with each other. The virus is not known to affect people, pets or domestic livestock.

CdAdV-1 was the cause of a 1993-1994 outbreak of hemorrhagic disease in black tailed deer and mule deer that spanned at least 18 California counties. Since then, CdAdV-1 has been identified as the cause of sporadic, often widespread, outbreaks of hemorrhagic disease in California and other western states. Deer fawns are at greatest risk, with high rates of mortality following infection. Yearlings and adult deer are more resistant but mortalities in these age groups occur as well. Outbreaks can be widespread and have significant impact on affected deer populations.

Affected deer are often found dead without any obvious symptoms. They may be found near water. Sick animals may have excessive salivation (drooling or foaming at the mouth), diarrhea, regurgitation or seizures.

In addition to removing food and other attractants, Californians can help wildlife veterinarians track and study the disease by reporting sightings of sick or dead deer. Anyone who observes a deer exhibiting symptoms, or encountering a deer that has died from unknown causes, can submit the information to CDFW through the department’s online mortality reporting system.



  • We had a deer with the exact same symptoms and it died in our driveway a few months back. I called fish and game , but they weren’t interested and told me to bury it. These clowns are a real joke! I guess their priorities have changed these last couple years. Too bad for the wildlife, maybe the fines are just to low so F&G isn’t interested!

    • Maybe they were busy that day?

      • Ya busy being law enforcement for cannabis control instead of taking care of the fish and wildlife. Good point they see no fines or fees coming their way, not interested in your sick deer. Saw a deer two days ago acting very strange. I thought it looked like it had wasting disease. I definitely don’t trust the department enough to report anything that will bring them onto my property. They should be renamed the department of vultures on your nads.

      • Busy BUSTING some Mom & Pop Grow more than likely!!!

    • Why should you have to bury it? believe it or not its fish an games job. besides the buzzards have to eat too.

    • Try calling the headquarters offices in Sacramento. It’s possible the local F&W are too busy collecting marijuana and cash on local busts. Seriously, they seem to neglect other wildlife issues as well.

  • We tried reporting a possible rabid skunk in maranda to them a couple weeks ago and got the fun bureaucratic run around. Animal control, the sheriff and Fish and Wildlife all seemed annoyed that we’d even call them. I had figured they would be interested in a skunk showing symptoms of rabies in a town right next to a high school?

  • The 300 deer I have seen have looked very healthy young deer mature bucks and doe’s even encounter the elk herd they also look very healthy.

  • Disease and virus are the traditional means by which power is cast over the masses, altering the existing contract, without consent.
    Who could imagine a more pervasive situation, other than war or a galactic disruption, that would invite such bizzare social and economic calamity onto humans or deer?
    Of course we are all connected through blood, air, soil and water, but this is new territory, seems to me(regarding corona).
    There’s been plagues, die offs, and mass extinctions before and life has carried on, so chin up I guess?
    This is the first time, I think, any of us in our lifetimes have seen it.
    It’s frightening and interesting!

    • Save the critters

      Well aren’t you just a breath of fresh air on this foggy morning. Not! We have enough doom and despondency. Now to the issue at hand. A couple of years ago a deer was seizing in my field. This went on for hours. I called fish and game, left a message, no one got back to me. It was horrible to watch. This animal was suffering. The least fish and game could do was call back and indicate there was nothing they could do. But nary a word. The deer eventually died and the vultures showed up. We buried the deer. Besides the damage done by the buzzards there was no visible signs as to why this critter died.

    • So any disease has to be a conspiracy?! Anthrocenrtric much? Maybe things happen without a Disney style diabolical villain now and then.

  • They should just wear a mask.

  • We are wildlife!

    Our deer herd is smaller than I have ever seen it in my 60 years. Mountain Lions And black bear have decimated our deer. So I guess we can lay the blame for a weakened herd at the feet of California’s leadership. A weakened herd is susceptible to all types of disease. We’ve seen our deer attacked by a mite that wiped out 100s of deer in my area. I joined our local deer organization comprised of hunters and conservationists. Our goal is to provide habitat and sustainable harvests of deer locally. We have reseeded burned areas etc.. Please donate to Mule deer foundation! They also include Blacktail deer.

  • I sure hope the Department of Fish and Wildlife will continue to follow deer that are reported with the symptoms, and have them checked to try and find out what the disease might be, and how to cure it if possible. I know the Elk have a health problem, and wonder if the two could be connected some how. They told “local” above comment, to just bury it. Not a good idea. They need to come and get the dead animal and have it examined by the department.

  • michael Chattick

    This disease is quite prevalent within US Deer, and Elk, with it being so prevalent in some enclaves permits for hunting allow 5- 7 deer per year., with no signs of its numbers declining or spread to areas outside of original outbreak.
    There is “no cure” available!.
    Whence came its origins is not realy debatable except the power of US Beef ranchers and Processors have an almost blanket protection by US. FDA, BLM, and many State and National Hunting and Corporate hunting gear refusal to hold open to public debate on issue.
    As the yearly increase of releasing public lands to beef and sheep ranchers it is the wildlife that come increasingly under threats of if not extinction vast losses in healthy animals.
    It is not strictly limited to West of Mississipli River states as the outbreaks grow larger in Eastern states.
    Michigan has very large numbers as do N Y and Pensylvania and the killer is found in Atlantic Ocean smaller states.
    “Why the sudden change in age of beef cattle at slaughter , from 24-30 months to under 24 and portions of beef preparations(front of front quarters to neck and head,) mechanical seperation since first outbreak of mad cow disease?”
    2nd Question:
    Is there any truth in old saw, “You are what you eat”?

  • Sad! The deer population seems quite low here the last 4 years.
    I thought it might be due to the fires and increase in lions, but maybe not.

  • We are Wildlife! and HotCoffee…I can assure you that the deer population from Whitethorn to Shelter Cove has grown to immense proportions…maybe they have all moved West…other than the fawn that was gutted by 2 roaming German Shepherds in my yard a few days ago 🙁 the fawns seem to be thriving

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