RALEIGH — Stone Mountain State Park is known for its large deer population, the health of which is now being threatened by a disease that has killed deer in the park as well as western Surry County.
At least 20 white-tailed deer have died in the area of the state park in a suspected outbreak of hemorrhagic disease. This is the result of a virus that does not pose a danger to humans, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
Dead white-tailed deer also have been discovered on private property near the state park, and hemorrhagic disease was confirmed in the death of a deer in Surry County, according to wildlife officials.
“We are anxious to get the word out to people,” Charlie Peek, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which includes the park system, said Wednesday.
“They are so accessible to so many people,” Peek said of the deer at the state park that encompasses areas of Alleghany and Wilkes counties near the Surry County border.
Though no danger is posed to humans, he said officials want to ensure the public is aware of what is occurring in the park area. “People are likely to know there’s sick animals,” he added Wednesday.
Hemorrhagic disease results from an infectious virus transmitted by tiny biting flies or gnats known as midges, sand gnats, sand flies or no-see-ums. It is a fairly common disease of white-tailed deer in the southeastern United States, with outbreaks reported more frequently from August until October, when freezing weather dampens the midge population.
Along with not being transmitted to humans, the disease’s effect on livestock is usually minimal, officials say.
State park rangers and natural resource managers and officials with the N.C Wildlife Resources Commission are working to confirm the outbreak through testing.
Staff members at Stone Mountain State Park have been removing deer carcasses from trails, water sources and areas near visitor facilities when they are discovered or reported. Visitors are advised not to feed or interact with the park’s deer herd and should report any animals that show obvious signs of sickness to rangers or at the park’s office.
Peek said that in terms of measures available to keep animals from contracting the disease, “there is not anything — no.”
Colder weather, or abnormally dry conditions, would limit its spread, he said.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.