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Fish & Wildlife Commission approves update to chronic wasting disease plan

Hunting - Region 7

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

At its April 19 meeting, the F&W Commission approved the department’s Montana Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan update, which has undergone several revisions since the draft was proposed to the Commission in November. The department took public comment on the draft plan over the winter and was reviewed by the department’s CWD citizen advisory committee.

FWP initiated a CWD Surveillance Plan in portions of region 3 and region 5 during the 2017 hunting season. In these regions, 1,406 samples were collected from mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. Six deer (four mule deer bucks, one mule deer doe and one white-tailed doe) tested positive for CWD in region 5 during general season surveillance. No CWD positive animals were detected in region 3. In addition, one radio-collared mule deer buck that was harvested in HD 401 near Chester also tested positive during the general season.

As part of FWP’s response to these detections, FWP held two special CWD hunts to better measure the prevalence and spatial distribution of CWD within the infected areas. An additional 348 samples were collected during the Bridger Special Hunt, and 123 samples were collected during the Sage Creek Hunt. Information combined from the special hunts and the general season suggests that CWD infects 2 percent of mule deer and 1 percent of white-tailed deer within the Bridger Special Hunt Area, and less than 1 percent of mule deer in the Sage Creek Special Hunt Area.

The final draft of the plan addresses ideas and concerns presented through a public comment period and also through the work of the internal FWP CWD Action Team and the CWD Citizens Panel.

The final plan differs from earlier versions in establishing a threshold to changing management. Earlier drafts of the plan said that FWP may not need to change management if prevalence was less than 5 percent. However, after reviewing comments from FWP staff and researchers and managers in CWD-positive states, FWP will initiate long-term CWD management actions with any detection, even at low prevalence.

The plan states: “Even if prevalence is below 5 percent, FWP will initiate CWD management to keep prevalence low and help prevent disease spread.”

This fall, FWP will continue its CWD surveillance efforts across the Hi-Line and in a small portion of western Montana. The hunting districts included in the priority surveillance area for the 2018 hunting season will be as follows: 210, 212, 217, 401, 403, 600, 611, 670, 640, 620 and 630. The surveillance efforts will begin at the start of general archery season, Sept. 1, but will intensify with hunter check stations at the start of general rifle season Oct. 20. For more information, visit