A fatal disease that has afflicted deer herds in western and central North Dakota has now been confirmed in the northern Red River Valley.

Two deer found dead near Drayton, N.D., tested positive for epizootic hemorrhagic disease, said Dr. Charlie Bahnson, wildlife veterinarian for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck. Bahnson said Sunday he didn't know how many deer had been found dead in the northern Valley, but one unconfirmed report put the tally at 17.

“So far, it doesn’t appear to be as severe and as widespread as farther west,” Bahnson said Sunday, Oct. 10, via text message.

Additional information on the northern Valley cases in North Dakota wasn’t immediately available, but there also have been some suspected cases from the Minnesota side of the river.

"We have had a few dead as well and (are) waiting on the results from one possible positive test," Jeremy Woinarowicz, conservation officer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Thief River Falls, said Monday morning in a text message. "The other deer we found were too decomposed to get a valid result."

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Woinarowicz said he has heard of as many as four deer found dead on the Minnesota side of the river in the Big Woods Township area north of Oslo and Alvarado.

Caused by a biting midge, EHD primarily afflicts white-tailed deer, but other big game species also are potentially susceptible. Southwest North Dakota has been the hardest-hit area in recent years, but the outbreak typically subsides with the first hard frost and the onset of colder weather.

The Game and Fish Department is exploring options for refunding the cost of deer licenses in the hardest-hit parts of the state this fall for hunters who desire a refund.