I came across a story today in the Billings Gazette about an outbreak of Bluetongue disease in Montana Deer and Antelope. This outbreak in Montana looks like it's worse in the Musselshell River drainage, especially from Roundup to Melstone according to one biologist. However, reports of dead Deer and Antelope have come in from a wide area.
Bluetongue is a disease once thought to only affect livestock such as Sheep. However it does cross over to Wildlife quite often. While the livestock normally have the benefits of a Vet to help them with the disease, Wildlife do not have the same benefits and large die-offs can be experienced when Bluetongue gets ramped up in a herd.
Another disease which affects wildlife, especially Whitetail Deer, is EHD or epizootic hemorrhagic disease. This wildlife disease is very close to Bluetongue in the way it affects animals.
There have been outbreaks of EHD reported in Texas, Kentucky, Illinois and Ohio already this year, although no mass die-offs have been reported so far.
Jay Newell, the Biologist from Montana stated...
"In 2001, we had our last big outbreak of EHD on the Musselshell," he said. "We figure we lost about 46 percent of the whitetails on the Musselshell to the disease that year. My guess is that it's going to be that or a little bit higher."
46% or higher death rate. OUCH! That's a lot of animals!
I know this is just part of Nature controlling the herd, but it still doens't make one feel any better about seeing wildlife die off.
So before gearing up and heading to the Musselshell area, it's probably best to give the area Biologist or Game Wardens a call and see how the herd numbers are doing. It would be a shame to get out hunting only to find the herd thinned out from Bluetongue.