CHeRI - Cervidae Health Research Initiative

Thank you to all who were able to join our CHeRI Symposium 2019

Such a great weekend learning about deer health we had! Thank you to every member of CHeRI and SeTDA who took the time to be there and a huge shoutout to all deer farmers who were able to attend! Your support is essential to us!

CHeRI in the right track to control disease vectors

Habitat associations of Culicoides species (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) abundant on a commercial cervid farm in Florida, USA

Very little is known about the larval habitat characteristics of Culicoides species associated with BTV/EHDV transmission, particularly in southeastern USA, limiting the establishment of effective midge control strategies. In this study, we examined the habitat associations of Culicoides species abundant on a commercial cervid farm in Florida, USA and quantified several environmental variables of their habitat to identify the key variables associated with midge abundance. This research is a first step at understanding which habitats are important to the insects that cause disease in deer. Understanding insect habitat needs will help farmers control these insects on their farm.

CHeRI Finds a New Virus in White-Tailed Deer

Molecular characterization of a novel reassortment Mammalian ortheovirus type 2 isolated from a Florida white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fawn

As a relatively new livestock industry in North America, many of the pathogens that affect deer production are still unknown or understudied. Mammalian orthoreoviruses are known to cause a broad level of gastrointestinal, respiratory, and neurological infections in both humans and animals. This study shows that Mammalian orthoreovirus (MRV) was found for the first time in farmed white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and likely contributed to the death of a 21 day old white-tailed deer fawn that died after producing profuse foul smelling diarrhea. CHeRI scientists have found that the virus present in white-tailed deer is closely related to MRVs of other mammals, such as pigs, mink, bats, and humans.

No-see-um Identification Services Project (NISP)

CHeRI Entomology researchers offer no-see-um identification services to learn what midges are present across the state of Florida, and to help you learn what midges are present on your farm, what they are feeding on, and if they are vectors for bluetongue virus (BTV) or epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV). Midges are blood-feeding flies called biting midges or no-see-ums that become more active with warmer weather, increasing risk of disease transmission. This service involves 5 easy steps: 1) CHeRI sends you traps, 2) You set up the traps 3) Send the samples back to CHeRI, 4) CHeRI scientists ID the midges, 5) CHeRI send you a report of the kinds midges on your farm and which are EHDV vectors. You can even request more collection tubes to see how the midge population fluctuates at different times of the year.

If you would like to identify the midges on your farm, contact Project Coordinator Dinesh Erram at or call the CHeRI entomology team at 772-778-7200 ext. 162 and ask for Nathan. We also offer texting services! Text us at: 772-778-7200 (the same number that you can call, just no extension). Visit our Diagnostics and Services page for more information, and watch the video below to see how light traps are set up for catching midges.

Update on HD activity from last year (Fall 2018)

As you can see from the map, it has been an early and active season for bluetongue virus. This virus is closely related to epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV) and is also transmitted by Culicoides midges or no-see-ums. While we are thrilled that an EHDV vaccine is on the horizon, this season reminds us that we have other impactful disease outbreaks in farmed deer. The good news is that the new vaccine techniques being used on EHDV will very likely work on BTV. As with the new EHDV vaccine, we need samples from your deer that have died from EHDV or BTV to ensure that the vaccines being made will be effective here in Florida. Our necropsy service helps you understand why your deer died and provides us with information to make better vaccines for Florida deer farmers.

Introduction to CHeRI

Scientists at the University of Florida Cervidae Health Research Initiative, or CHeRI for short, are working together to tackle problems that affect cervids: members of the deer family like white-tailed deer and elk. This initiative seeks to promote interdisciplinary science, education and outreach that increase the health and production of captive cervids in a sustainable manner and promotes the health of native wildlife and the ecosystems in which they live.

Our stakeholders in the deer farm industry have identified hemorrhagic disease as the primary threat to economic success in Florida. Last year deer farmers lost >$32M due to a high prevalence of EHD. More information on hemorrhagic disease and the viruses that cause this disease in deer can be found on our Hemorrhagic Disease Diagnostics page. While reducing morbidity and mortality of captive deer from HD is our primary goal, we seek to maintain a diverse portfolio of projects to improve the health of cervids in Florida.