HELENA, Mont. (AP)
A virus that causes internal bleeding is blamed for some Montana wildlife deaths, and a state agency suspecting the disease in Montana sheep is awai t ing test re sul t s, of f i c ial s sai d Thursday. Bluetongue has been confirmed in a white-tailed deer and an antelope, and is suspected in other recent deer and antelope deaths in cent ral and southeas ter n Mo n t a n a , t h e s t a t e Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks said. The Montana Department of Livestock is awaiting a laboratory report on tests involving Montana sheep, said Lisa Schmidt, spokeswoman for the agency. Schmidt said the report is likely to be in hand Monday. Early this week, the Department of Livestock ordered that sheep producers in Musselshell County not move their animals within or beyond the county for 30 days. That restriction, imposed by state veterinarian Marty Zaluski after about 100 sheep in the county died during the previous two weeks, is intended to reduce the possible spread of bluetongue. It is transmitted by biting gnats, typically in the late summer and early fall during years with prolonged warmth and dryness. With the onset of subfreezing temperatures at night, the disease subsides. Wildlife biologists suspect another disorder, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, also has killed deer, but do not have confirmation. Like bluetongue, epizootic hemorrhagic disease is transmitted by gnats. With Montana's archeryonly hunting season for deer and antelope open since Sept. 1, the wildlife agency is warning hunters in cent ral and southeas ter n Montana about bluetongue. There is no evidence the disEase or the meat of infected animals jeopardize human health, said Tom Palmer, spokesman for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Palmer said the warning was intended to help inform hunters so they are not left wondering about dead animals they may come across. He also said hunters who previously obtained private landowners' permission to hunt on their property would do well to check with those landowners, and determine whether the wildlife presence remains appropriate for hunting.