It could be a troubled fall in the outdoors

By Roger Wolfe - Contributing Columnist

Finally, fall is here and hunting season has kicked off.

Hunters are eager to spend time in the woods, even if the weather is still more like the dog days of summer than the cool crisp air of fall.

The beautiful run of weather we have had this summer is great for spending the day by the pool, but it usually spells trouble on the horizon as the leaves start to change. Long, hot summers bring a whole host of potential pitfalls as the hot days drag into fall.

There have already been numerous reports of deer being found dead in or around water and this has some hunters concerned. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and bluetongue are the usual suspects when sick or dead deer start to be found.

The diseases are similar in symptoms and causation, just the name of the viruses at the root of the problem has different names that are nearly impossible to pronounce. Actually, a few deer are infected by the disease every year, with some years being worse than others.

It is in particular, the hotter, dryer summers that seem to bring out the worst outbreaks of the disease. This is likely because those balmy late summer days are the perfect breeding conditions for the biting flies or midges that transmit the disease.

Usually, the outbreaks are contained to a relatively small general area where the infected midges are present. With a little luck and some cooler weather, there won’t be a massive die-off that will set back the deer herd in a particular area back to the times when it was an exciting event just to see one while in the woods.

Unfortunately, EHD isn’t the only concern on those hot, dry fall days. Another, and potentially more troublesome, danger of long dry spells that persist into the early fall are the forest fires that will surely arise from the tinder dry mountains.

Just like EHD, forest fires take a toll on wildlife all over the state. The worst part of a forest fire is that most of them can be prevented; even more troubling is that some are even set intentionally.

The fall fire season started Oct. 1 and limits the hours in which yard debris can be burned. All burning is prohibited from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. These burning hours are set so fires are not burning during the hottest, driest and most dangerous parts of the day.

Later in the fall, the air cools and the winds are generally still as the evening wears on. These are two of the key reasons to limit the burning as it is less likely for fires to spread and get out of hand.

Even burning in the evening doesn’t ensure that the fire won’t escape. It is always important to never leave a fire unattended and it is also against the law to let a fire burn without proper precautions and supervision.

Any time a fire burns a few acres of forest, it is a tragedy. But many forest fires burn many more acres and in doing so take a huge toll on the wildlife that call the forest home.

There are no easy days in the wild outdoors and there are perils around every bend. Animals are incredibly resilient and resourceful and it is amazing to watch how quickly Mother Nature can recover from any number of troubles.

We can’t do much to stop the spread of EHD or similar diseases that can take their toll on the deer herd, but we can certainly do everything we can to prevent forest fires and stop them before they get out of hand.

As fall rolls on, get out and enjoy the outdoors, the changing colors and the cooler temperatures, but don’t forget that every day is a challenge in the outdoors and as beautiful as it is, doesn’t come without its own set of troubles.

By Roger Wolfe

Contributing Columnist

Roger Wolfe writes about the West Virginia outdoors for Civitas Media newspapers

Roger Wolfe writes about the West Virginia outdoors for Civitas Media newspapers