Samples from three deer harvested in southeast Montana have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. These are the first positive results in the southeastern corner of the state. A second test will be conducted to confirm the initial positive results.
The positive animals include a mule deer buck shot 60 miles north of Miles City in Hunting District 701 in Prairie County, a white-tailed buck harvested two miles north of Hysham in HD 701, and a white-tailed doe taken near Decker in HD 704. The Decker deer was harvested within the Southern/Yellowstone CWD Management Zone, which includes transport restrictions. The sample was collected at the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office in Billings, which is within the management zone. All of the hunters were notified by FWP and were advised of their options to obtain another license, if desired.
“We have a management plan to guide local efforts,” said Emily Almberg, disease ecologist with FWP’s wildlife division. “We’re not trying to eliminate deer, we’re trying to manage the disease long term for healthy herds.”
If left unmanaged, CWD could lead to population decline in infected herds, as it has in other states. Sampling is part of FWP’s efforts to determine the presence and distribution of the disease.
CWD affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose. Transmission can most commonly occur through direct contact between animals, including urine, feces, saliva, blood and antler velvet. Carcasses of infected animals may serve as a source of environmental contamination as well and can infect other animals that come into contact with that carcass. The disease was first discovered in the wild in Montana south of Billings in 2017.
There is no known transmission of CWD to humans; however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters harvesting an animal in an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested. The animal’s head and throat area are required for testing purposes. If the animal tests positive, CDC advises against eating the meat.
The general hunting season ends on Sunday, Dec. 1. Hunters wanting to have their animals tested for CWD have several options in Region 7. Samples will be collected at:
Miles City regional FWP office Monday-Friday during business hours through Tuesday, Dec. 3.
Hysham, Ashland and Ekalaka check stations, which operate Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to sunset and Mondays from 8 a.m. to noon.
Broadus FWP office on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to sunset.
Sidney volunteer fire department on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Glendive at Hollecker Lake on Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to sunset.
Hunters also may collect the samples themselves and mail them using instructions posted at fwp.mt.gov/cwd.
To prevent the spread of CWD, hunters are encouraged to take the meat and leave the remaining parts at the kill site if possible, or to dispose of the animal in a Class II landfill. In Region 7, landfills are located in Miles City, Broadus, Baker, Forsyth, Glendive and Sidney. FWP strongly discourages dumping of carcasses or parts near roadways and areas outside of the kill site. It is unsightly and illegal, and if the animal has CWD, the carcass can transmit the disease for at least two years.
FWP’s efforts to track disease in southeast Montana
Southeast Montana is a high-priority area for CWD sampling this year. The Priority Sampling Area covers the southern portion of Hunting Districts 702, 704 and 705 (basically south of Highway 212). The area was chosen because of proximity to known positives in other states. In this area, FWP is actively looking to sample hunter-harvested deer, elk and moose.
“Hunters in general have been very supportive of our efforts, which we appreciate,” said FWP Regional Supervisor Brad Schmitz.
A Southern/Yellowstone CWD Management Zone also prevents the transport of carcasses, heads, brains and spinal columns of animals from that zone. The zone includes HD 704 south of Hwy 212, HDs 502 and 510, that portion of HD 520 east of Hwy 212, that portion of HD 575 north and east of Hwy 78, that portion of HD 590 south of Interstate 90, plus the communities of Billings, Broadus, and others on the defined boundaries.
The following carcass parts CAN be removed from a CWD Management Zone:
Meat that is cut and wrapped or meat that is boned out
Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached
Hides with no heads attached
Skull plates or antlers with no meat or tissue attached
Skulls that have been boiled and cleaned to remove flesh and tissue
Upper canine teeth
Head, partial body or whole-body mounts prepared by a taxidermist
Evidence of the animal’s sex does not have to be attached to any part of the carcass but cannot be destroyed and should accompany the animal from field to point of processing.
What can hunters do?
Since it takes about three weeks after testing to obtain results, hunters may opt to store the meat until they know if it is negative for CWD.
FWP recommends taking simple precautions when field dressing deer, particularly in CWD Management Zones:
Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when field dressing your deer.
Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
Avoid processing and consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will essentially remove these parts.)
Leave the carcass at the kill site or dispose of it properly in a Class II landfill.
For more information on CWD, visit fwp.mt.gov/cwd.