Faced with a public health crisis straight from a dystopian horror movie, officials in a remote region of Siberia have proposed killing off 250,000 reindeer by Christmas to minimize the possible spread of deadly anthrax bacteria, according to the Siberian Times.

The alarm started in July, when an outbreak of the bacteria killed a 12-year-old nomadic boy and sickened nearly 100 people in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug, a vast northwestern region of the Siberian tundra. More than 2,300 reindeer also died.

The region’s governor, Dmitry Kobylkin, declared a state of emergency but also tried to reassure the Nenets, the nomadic indigenous people of the region, who roam with the herds of reindeer and depend on them for their existence.

“There is no epidemic in Yamal,” Kobylkin said then. “Only a small area was quarantined.”=

The Yamal Peninsula, where the outbreak occurred, was immediately closed off and the carcasses of the dead animals burned. Kobylkin said all the reindeer on the peninsula – some 300,000 – were vaccinated, the AP reported.

Hundreds of nomadic reindeer herders were evacuated to Salekhard, the region’s capital, and the government set aside about $1.3 million to help them build a new settlement, according to the AP.

Still, the outbreak has prompted officials to propose killing 250,000 reindeer by Christmas, a far greater number than would be reduced anyway in an annual cull of the animals that takes place each November and December, the Siberian Times reported.

A Russian federal veterinary official has said the reindeer population in Yamal was already “too high,” and, thus, unsustainable.

“The more dense the animal population is, the worse the disease transfer medium (and) the more often animals get sick,” said Nikolai Vlasov, deputy head of Russia’s Federal Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service, according to the Siberian Times.

An estimated 730,000 reindeer live in the Yamalo-Nenets region, the largest herd in the world, according to the paper.

Further complicating the matter, officials believe the mysterious outbreak may have started because a heat wave this summer thawed a decades-old corpse of a reindeer that was infected with anthrax, rereleasing the bacteria into the air.

As the warmer temperatures caused a layer of permafrost to melt, the infected reindeer carcass was exposed to the surface – and, with it, spores of reanimated anthrax bacteria that grazing reindeer quickly picked up.