The blue tongue virus that killed up to 1,000 deer in Idaho and hundreds more in Washington was discovered in Montana recently, raising the specter of a deadly disease that’s sweeping across the Pacific Northwest.

Deer that contract the virus have an 80-90 percent of dying. Although not contagious for humans, the virus affects mostly whitetail deer, although they have found it in mule deer and it’s known to pass to livestock such as sheep, according to wildlife officials who spoke with the Spokane Review.

Blue tongue disease is spread through gnats, with symptoms including mouth and nasal discharge and a general sickness about them, similar to epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD), which is common in September but not to this extent. 

Reports in rural parts of Idaho. Washington  and Montana are reporting dozens of dead deer on the roads and creeks. One man told the Spokane Review he had 30 dead deer on his property. In Eureka, Montana, the mayor told the local newspaper they found about 60 dead deer. And in Idaho, officials estimate up to 1,000 deer have died from the disease, which is actually nothing compared to 2003 when roughly 10,000 whitetail deer died from blue tongue. 

While the disease cannot be transmitted to humans, officials advice not harvesting a visibly sick animal. For more on blue tongue disease click here.

Photo credit: Dreamstime