U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Biology and Management of White-Tailed Deer, ed. David G. Hewitt (Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2011), pp. 219-249. (Chapter 7)


This article is a U.S. government work and is not subject to copyright in the United States.


Wildlife biologists have long pursued understanding the ecology of diseases and parasites impacting white-tailed deer (e.g., see Whitlock, 1939), an important field of study because they can detrimentally affect deer populations, other wildlife, livestock, and humans (Davidson et aI., 1981). Diseases and parasites of white-tailed deer, perhaps more than any other North American large mammal species, have received much attention in the literature and complete treatises have been devoted to the subject (e.g., see Davidson et aI., 1981). In the last 20 years it has become necessary for wildlife biologists to incorporate disease concerns into the management of white-tailed deer (Figure 7.1). For example, at the federal level the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is working to manage white-tailed deer diseases, some with implications for livestock health, including bluetongue (BT), bovine tuberculosis, cattle fever ticks, chronic wasting disease (CWD), and lohne's disease. Much of our knowledge stems from the exhaustive work with white-tailed deer diseases and parasites performed at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia over nearly six decades (e.g., see Hayes et aI., 1958). Recent advances in our understanding of the ecology of white-tailed deer diseases and parasites have also been made by state and federal agencies, and university scientists.

Numerous diseases and parasites cause morbidity and mortality in white-tailed deer. Altered deer behavior and reproductive success have also been noted (Matschke et aI., 1984). White-tailed deer management programs should consider the significance of diseases and parasites early during the planning phases and throughout program implementation. Specifically, white-tailed deer biologists and managers would benefit by familiarizing themselves with the common infectious and parasitic diseases of deer, including viruses, bacteria, infectious prions, and parasites. Herein, the purpose is to provide a brief synopsis of these diseases and parasites and the chapter is organized into primary headings of: viral diseases, bacterial diseases, rickettsial diseases, CWD, and parasites. For a more detailed account of many of these infectious and parasitic agents readers should peruse Davidson et aI. (1981), Samuel et aI. (2001), and Williams and Barker (2001). For an easy-to-use and practical field guide for many whitetailed deer diseases and parasites, readers should see Davidson (2006). Furthermore, this chapter does not consider the morbidity and mortality factors of toxicosis, environmental contaminants, trauma, and weather-related phenomenon.