“I started finding them while scouting for the archery season,” bowhunter Jack Cramer said. “The first one was a week before the last of September.”

Cramer was at the epicenter of the mysterious demise of at least 15 whitetailed deer that appeared to have dropped dead near his home just west of Gettysburg.

“A day or two later, a neighbor noticed a dead buck,” Cramer added. “Then we started looking for them and finding more ... by smelling them. They laid down on trails, like they were walking and just fell over.”

Larry Haynes, the local Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer, ruled out poaching and poisoning. There were no bullet wounds in the deer and whitetails are tough to poison because they feed high and smell most additives.

The leading suspect wasn’t a man, but a virus.

It was only a matter of time until epizootic hemorrhagic “Blue Tongue” disease (EHD) showed up in Pennsylvania. It was in all other neighboring states.

That was in 1996 and the first known reports of EHD in Penn’s Woods, although ample fresh samples were not available to clearly define it. Confirmation of EHD came in Green and Washington counties six years later.

Just recently, 150 dead whitetails were found in Beaver, Washington and Allegheny counties. EHD is the suspected reaper.

Deer of all ages died in Cramer’s area of Adams County in what may have been the Keystone State’s first outbreak of EHD.

With EHD in the news and swirling interest and concern about the spread of the lethal chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania, it’s important to draw distinctions between acronyms.

CWD first showed up in Pennsylvania in Adams County in 2012.

Deer contract EHD through the bites of small flies or midges. The disease can kill the animal within five to 10 days, but doesn’t spread from deer to deer, like chronic wasting disease. CWD is spread among deer by saliva and other interaction. Neither is infectious to humans.

After contracting EHD, the deer may appear to show some lameness or loss of appetite. The tongue is also blue and the hooves become soft or cracked.

Livestock like cattle and sheep can serve as reservoirs for the virus and show no symptoms.

Consequences of “Blue Tongue” can be short-term. Although fatalities can be numerous, the losses are often confined. In 2007, the commission estimated more than 1,000 deer died from EHD in Greene, Washington, Beaver, Allegheny, Westmoreland and Cambria counties.

Not all deer die from EHD, but CWD is always fatal.

The first frost generally eliminates EHD from the landscape, whereas CWD prions can live in the soil for up to 15 years.

The spread of CWD can devastate a herd of deer or elk for many, many years.

There is no evidence that EHD can lead to long-term negative impacts on deer populations. Hunting in Jack Cramer’s vicinity regained its potential.

Dippin’ for a dollar

With a $1 license one day only, adult residents and non-residents can fish for little on Labor Day.

The permit, good only on Labor Day, Sept. 4, is an opportunity to enjoy fishing with family and friends, to try it for the first time, and to renew interest in the sport.

There will also be a Mentored Youth Panfish Day that day. Young anglers who have a free mentored youth permit or bought a voluntary youth license, can fish on 19 Panfish Enhancement lakes.

The Panfish Enhancement lakes—there are none in southcentral Pennsylvania—are managed to increase the number and size of fish. Panfish include bluegill, pumpkinseed and redear sunfish, which are collectively called sunfish; black and white crappies; and yellow perch. For more details, go to www.fishandboat.com.

Game seats filled

York orthopedic surgeon Michael Mitrick will represent this region as a new member of the board of Pennsylvania Game Commissioners.

Region 6 includes Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder and York counties. Mitrick is taking the seat previously held by Commissioner Ronald Weaner of Biglerville.

Mitrick grew up in Illinois and when he moved to Pennsylvania in 1981, deer hunting quickly became his new passion. He has held a Pennsylvania hunting license every year since moving to the state.

Stanley Knick Jr. of Dupont is taking the seat from Region 7, which includes Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties. Commissioner Jay Delaney’s term expired.

Knick has been an avid hunter and angler for 43 years and owns and operates Knick Fence Company in Dupont.

Contact B.J. Small at bjsmall@comcast.net or follow him on Twitter @Arrows2010.