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Wildlife and Fish Health - Deer Hair-loss Syndrome

Deer Hair-loss Syndrome (pdf)
Deer Hair-loss Syndrome Research (pdf)

Deer Hair-loss Photo (photo courtesy of Brian Murray)Clinical Signs

  • Nov —Dec.: darkening hair coat on the sides of the deer
  • Jan. — April: hair loss and yellow to white discoloration of hair over the ribcage, flanks, rump and neck. Deer licking excessively, emaciation, diarrhea, lethargy, and death
  • June — Oct: deer that survive have re-growth of hair and weight gain
  • Percent affected animals within each observed group appears to be highly variable
  • Field observations: Can see all combinations of affected and non-affected does and fawns together.
  • Hair loss appears to be from self-mutilation


  • Recognized in western Washington deer since 1996-1997, western Oregon since 1998

  • Wildlife agency staff in both states believe there was a southern expansion of the syndrome through Washington first then down through Oregon. Difficult to quantify due to anecdotal observations over the past 4 years. This syndrome may have been seen earlier in both states.

  • Common to see "scruffy" deer in late winter and spring due to a variety of causes

  • Oregon Black-tailed deer: Confirmed cases from the coast to the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. North from the Columbia River, down to Grant’s Pass and suspected cases to Ashland.
    Columbia white-tailed deer: Confirmed cases in the Umpqua Valley and north coast, but not reported on the lower Columbia River islands.

  • Washington Black-tailed deer: Confirmed cases from the coast to the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. North from British Columbia to the Columbia River.
    Columbia white-tailed deer: Has not been reported

  • Seen in both open agricultural and forested habitat

  • Affected deer seen at lower elevations
    • Oregon - below 1000 feet
    • Washington - below 2000 feet

  • Affects fawns and does, and less commonly adults males

  • Affected fawns appear to have a higher mortality than affected does

  • Some field staff in both states very concerned about the small number of fawns regionally seen in late spring.

Summary of Necropsy Results

  • Decreased body fat (loss of body condition)
  • Verminous pnemonia (parasite-related)
  • Parelaphostrongylus sp. — muscle worm (larvae and eggs in lungs, larvae in feces)
  • Pediculosis (large numbers of biting lice)

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