Browsing whitetail deer buckIt looks like bluetongue disease might be bigger problem this year than it has been. In years past, it’s caused problems in various states all the way from Montana to Nebraska to Florida. And it’s responsible for killing a whole lot of whitetails.

In case you’re not familiar, bluetongue is a disease of white-tailed deer that can sometimes affect other animals such as pronghorn, mule deer, bighorn sheep and elk.

It’s typically transmitted from deer to deer by small flies called midges. And it’s known to spread more freely and quickly during dry years or droughts. According to experts, this is due to a few factors: deer come to water sources more often and come to close contact with other dear more frequently; the mud that can almost always be found around the water sources is a veritable breeding ground for the midges, which his makes it very likely that deer in pursuit of water could contract bluetongue.

It has been in the news cycle lately because outbreaks of have been popping up in usually unaffected areas. For example, Canada had its first ever outbreak recently. This particular infection happened to occur in cattle, but it’s worrisome never the less.

New Jersey has also warned the public to be vigilant of whether they see any white-tailed deer that may be affected. Their warning is spooky considering the rarity of bluetongue outbreaks in the state. Their last happened all the way back in 1975.

Unfortunately, bluetongue occurrences are up in populations of deer and elk in a bunch of states across the country. But despite a whole lot of finger pointing and scary prognostications of doom and gloom (which tend to arise around bluetongue discussions. See here.), many experts are confident that the problem that can in fact be managed.

You can do your part by reporting any cases of bluetongue you might come across. Here’s what you should be looking for:

Deer in the early stages of hemorrhagic disease may appear lethargic, disoriented, lame, or unresponsive to the presence of humans. As the disease progresses the deer may salivate excessively or foam at the mouth; have bloody discharge from the nose; lesions or sores on the mouth; and swollen, sometimes blue-tinged tongues. Oftentimes the disease kills the deer so quickly (within a day or two), that they may die in very good body condition. In other cases, they may not die, just become sick and stop eating, resulting in emaciation.

So if you see anything like this, be sure let your state’s wildlife department know.