State wildlife officials say a disease has killed hundreds of deer across New Jersey during the past two months, thinning the herd in at least six counties.
Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, or EHD, has resurfaced in one of the most significant outbreaks in state history, though it has subsided in recent weeks.
But officials tell The Star-Ledger of Newark that there's nothing they can do about the illness, which is spread by tiny bugs. But they note EHD has no effect on humans and can't be transmitted through handling or consuming infected deer meat
Since early August, it's killed deer across a swath in the west-central part of the state. Nearly all reports have come from two regions — Morris, Union and northern Somerset counties and Mercer, Hunterdon and southern Somerset counties.
It's unclear what the illness' long-term impact could be, but officials say the state's deer population of roughly 114,000 shouldn't be affected too badly. They also note the disease's death toll is minimal compared with the estimated 64,000 deer killed in New Jersey by hunters in a given year.
Experts say EHD is fairly common and returns every few years, but rarely strikes as hard and wide as it has this year.
Two of the state's worst outbreaks came in 1999 and 2007. EHD fanned across 10 counties in 2007, and in 1999 the disease was blamed for the deaths of more than 4,000 white-tailed deer in the Salem County area.