European lice taking toll on Whidbey Island deer

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on May 30, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Updated Monday, May 30 at 6:26 PM

NEAR GREENBANK, WHIDBEY ISLAND, Wash. -- The deer on South Whidbey Island are plentiful this year and they look healthy enough at first glance. But if you can get a close look, you'll see many of them have ugly splotches and bald spots in their hair.

It's called Deer Hair Loss Syndrome, and Greenbank resident Rex Kukinich has seen enough of it.

"I'd just like to see them there for the next generation," he said, "You know you wonder about that don't we?"

Biologists say the syndrome is caused by European lice that started showing up here a few years ago.

The lice cause such irritation, the deer are constantly grooming and chewing away their protective hair. Other infections can then move in and weaker deer, especially fawns, cannot fight it off and die.

State Fish and Wildlife biologists say there is little anyone can do for infected deer. Some will survive, some won't. They also say the population on Whidbey Island is big enough to handle the losses.

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