Although the importance of wild ruminants as potential reservoirs of bluetongue virus (BTV) has been suggested, the role played by these species in the epidemiology of BT in Europe is still unclear. We carried out a serologic and virologic survey to assess the role of wild ruminants in the transmission and maintenance of BTV in Andalusia (southern Spain) between 2006 and 2010. A total of 473 out of 1339 (35.3%) wild ruminants analyzed showed antibodies against BTV by both ELISA and serum neutralization test (SNT). The presence of neutralizing antibodies to BTV-1 and BTV-4 were detected in the four species analyzed (red deer, roe deer, fallow deer and mouflon), while seropositivity against BTV-8 was found in red deer, fallow deer and mouflon but not in roe deer. Statistically significant differences were found among species, ages and sampling regions. BTV RNA was detected in twenty-one out of 1013 wild ruminants (2.1%) tested. BTV-1 and BTV-4 RNA were confirmed in red deer and mouflon by specific rRT-PCR. BTV-1 and BTV-4 seropositive and RNA positive wild ruminants, including juveniles and sub-adults, were detected years after the last outbreak was reported in livestock. In addition, between the 2008/2009 and the 2010/2011 hunting seasons, the seroprevalence against BTV-1, BTV-4 and BTV-8 increased in the majority of provinces, and these serotypes were detected in many areas where BTV outbreaks were not reported in domestic ruminants. The results indicate that wild ruminants seem to be implicated in the dissemination and persistence of BTV in Spain. © 2011García-Bocanegra et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.