Deer in Spring Landscape

Diseases and Parasites of Maryland Deer

Hemorrhagic Disease (HD)

Biting midges (“no see ums”) transmit this viral disease of white-tailed deer. Deer die from extensive internal hemorrhages. HD typically appears during the late summer or early fall. The appearance of sick or dead deer near water at this time of year is an indication of potential HD.

Early signs of infection are respiratory distress, swelling of the head, neck or tongue and stupor. Deer may have open sores on the tongue and upper front dental pad. Deer that survive the initial infection may have reduced mobility related to lameness. Some of these deer may not live. Surviving deer show hooves with sloughing tissue.

DNR monitors HD by looking for sloughing hoof tissue on deer harvested during firearm deer hunting season. HD appears annually in Maryland with varying distribution and intensity. Typical white-tailed deer mortality rates are less than 25 percent and do not occur over large landscapes.

The virus is not contagious to humans and only harvested deer with huge open sores should not be consumed. Dogs, cats and sheep are not affected, but cattle can exhibit very mild symptoms.

A hemorrhagic disease Q & A sheet with additional information is available on the DNR Website.

Hemorrhagic Disease Q & A Fact Sheet

Hemorrhagic Disease in White-Tailed Deer
Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS)

Photograph of sloughing hoof tissue

sloughing hoof tissue

Photograph of ulcerated upper dental pad

ulcerated upper dental pad

Photograph showing ulcerated tongue of white-tailed deer

ulcerated tongue


Photographs are used with the permission of the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study located at the University of Georgia, College of Veterinary Medicine.

For more information:

For more information about white-tailed deer parasites and diseases, visit the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study Web site. The publication “Field Manual of Wildlife Diseases in the Southeastern United States” (third edition) by William R. Davidson and Victor F. Nettles explains and describes in detail parasites and diseases of southeastern birds and mammals. It is available for purchase through the website listed above.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Wildlife and Heritage Service
Tawes State Office Building, E-1
Annapolis MD 21401
Toll-free in Maryland: 1-877-620-8DNR, Ext. 8540


Diseases and Parasites of Maryland Deer