Bluetongue Disease Killing Deer Near Eureka

Virus has killed 60 whitetail deer, while additional reports are still coming in

By Beacon Staff

A disease that has been killing deer across the Pacific Northwest has turned up in the Eureka area, state wildlife officials announced.

According to Eureka area Wildlife Biologist Tim Thier, approximately 60 deer have died from the disease, while additional reports of dead deer are still trickling in.

Bluetongue is a virus that affects whitetail deer, mule deer, antelope and domestic sheep. Other wildlife may be affected by the disease, but to a lesser degree.

The disease is transmitted by a small biting midge with the onset of disease typically occurring in late summer to early fall, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson.

Although this year’s whitetail population is robust, Anderson said the disease can kill up to 75 percent of local deer populations.

Anderson said the deer mortalities should end shortly after a frost, which will kill the midges.

FWP will continue monitoring the effects of the disease on deer in the Eureka area, he said.

Anderson urged people to report deer that appear to be sick or that die from unexplained reasons anywhere in the region by calling at FWP at 752-5501.

“We are trying to document any movement of the disease outside of the Eureka area,” Anderson said.

The bluetongue virus does not affect people. Meat from deer with the disease is safe to eat; however, FWP advises that people do not harvest animals that appear to be sick.

Historically hemorrhagic diseases like bluetongue were found east of the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana. Several years ago, a number of whitetail deer died from a related disease in the Hamilton area.

This is the first reported case in the region.