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FWP responds to CWD concerns

Hunting - Region 7

Tue Nov 14 16:31:00 MST 2017

CWD Priority Sampling Areas by Hunting District, Nov. 2017

CWD Priority Sampling Areas by Hunting District, Nov. 2017

The discovery this past week of two samples that are suspect for Chronic Wasting Disease in deer harvested in Montana is understandably prompting questions from the public. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is trying to address those questions while responding to the situation.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a progressive, fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. It is a slow-moving disease. However, left unmanaged, it could result in long-term population declines within affected herds.

The suspect samples were both from deer harvested in Hunting District 510 in south central Montana, close to the communities of Bridger and Belfry. This is within FWP’s priority CWD surveillance area, which includes portions of Regions 5 and 3. CWD has been expanding to the north, south and east of Montana for some time, and sampling targets areas closest to confirmed cases across the state’s borders (see map).

Though there is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans, it is recommended to never ingest meat from animals that appear to be sick or are known to be CWD positive.

Hunters harvesting deer, elk or moose in the priority surveillance area who are concerned about infection should have the animal tested. Sampling can be done at a check station within the area or at the FWP Region 3 office in Bozeman or the Region 5 office in Billings.

Region 7 falls outside of the current sampling area, so if hunters wish to test animals harvested there, they must do it on their own. They can follow the directions on the web page at The cost is $17 plus shipping.

Since it isn’t known yet how widespread CWD is in Montana, some simple precautions should be taken when field dressing deer, elk or moose:

  • Wear rubber gloves and eye protection.
  • Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
  • Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
  • Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field dressing coupled with boning out of a carcass will essentially remove these parts.)

Montana hunters need to remember that Montana law prohibits the import of heads and spinal columns of deer, elk or moose harvested in states or provinces that have CWD in wild or captive populations.

Out-of-state hunters should check their state’s carcass transport restrictions since Montana is now a CWD-positive state. Hunters should also dispose of carcass waste in a Class II landfill. Disposing of carcass waste on the landscape is considered littering and it may facilitate the spread of CWD.

FWP has assembled an incident command team and will define an initial response area. It may recommend a special CWD hunt, with the goal to collect enough samples to determine disease prevalence and distribution. For more information, look online at