North Dakota offers license refunds to 30,000 deer hunters

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota is offering license refunds to nearly 30,000 deer hunters due to an outbreak of a viral disease in the western part of the state.

It’s the second straight year that the state’s Game and Fish Department is offering refunds to thousands of hunters. The department says it has received nearly 1,000 reports of dead deer after epizootic hemorrhagic disease, known as EHD, surfaced in late August.

The disease, transmitted by biting gnats, seems to be affecting a larger portion of the state than usual, Wildlife Chief Casey Anderson.

Game and Fish Wildlife Veterinarian Charlie Bahnson said one theory could be that prolonged drought conditions in the state and record-breaking heat in October created conditions favorable to midges and more viral spread.

The heaviest concentration of reported deaths is along the Missouri River, especially to the north and south of Bismarck and Mandan, the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Last year’s outbreak was in the southwest and west central parts of the state, and Game and Fish offered license refunds to more than 9,000 hunters with whitetail licenses in 12 hunting units. Only about 400 sought refunds. This year, reports have come in from throughout western and central North Dakota, and the state is offering refunds to hunters with whitetail or “any” deer gun licenses in 22 units.

Bahnson said nearly 30,000 hunters are potentially affected, and Game and Fish will continue to monitor the situation to see if more people will be eligible for refunds. Hunters and landowners are asked to report any dead deer, along with photos, to the department through an online wildlife mortality reporting system.

The disease is not considered a danger to people.

EHD outbreaks end only after a hard freeze kills off the midges. That could happen in parts of western North Dakota yet this week, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

This year’s deer gun season is Nov. 5 through Nov. 21. The state made 72,200 licenses available this year, the highest number in 10 years.