VICTORIA -- The provincial government suspects that a new disease may be killing deer in the Gulf Islands.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development says that more than 60 deer are suspected to have died from adenovirus hemorrhagic disease (AHD) across at least two Gulf Islands in September.

AHD affects all types of cervids – such as white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose and caribou – but has most commonly been found in black-tailed deer.

The disease is usually fatal for deer and rapidly affects the animal’s small blood vessels in the lungs and intestines.

Fawns are particularly susceptible to the virus, with “much higher” mortality rates compared to adult deer.

The province says that there is no evidence that AHD can be transmitted to humans, pets or livestock.

However, hunters are advised not to eat any animals that appear ill, are acting abnormally prior to death or that are found already dead.

Signs of AHD include difficulty breathing, foaming or drooling at the mouth, seizures and diarrhea that may contain blood.

Other more chronic symptoms include ulcers and abscesses in the mouth and throat.

Anyone who sees a deer displaying these symptoms in B.C. is asked to contact the Wildlife Health Laboratory at 250 751-7246.

AHD was first discovered in California in 1993 and has since been seen in other areas of the United States. It has never before been detected in B.C.

The province says that since AHD was discovered, wildlife health experts have been trained to recognize the disease more easily and improved diagnostic tools have been developed.

Deer samples collected from the first dead deer suspected of having AHD in B.C., on Galiano Island, have been sent to labs in Canada and the U.S. to confirm the case of the disease.

The province says that AHD outbreaks are currently active in California and Oregon.