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Wildlife officials and outfitters say it could take several years for white-tailed deer populations to recover from a devastating disease that has killed thousands of the animals across parts of eastern Montana and elsewhere in the Northern Plains.

Pat Gunderson with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said 90 percent or more of whitetail have been killed along a 100-mile stretch of the Milk River in the northeast of the state.

Whitetail deaths also have been reported elsewhere in eastern Montana, across west North Dakota and at scattered sites in Wyoming, South Dakota and Kansas.

They were killed by epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD. Transmitted by biting midges, EHD causes internal bleeding. Infected animals can die within days.

Humans are not susceptible, and experts say infected livestock typically show few symptoms.

Associated Press