HELENA – The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is reminding hunters of new regulations in place to help combat chronic wasting disease in Montana.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk, moose, and caribou and was first reported in Montana in October 2017.
FWP check stations will be increasing the sampling of deer and elk to test for CWD and FWP says hunters are required by law to stop at FWP check stations.
FWP Game Management Bureau Chief John Vore said the samples collected will help FWP learn about the prevalence since CWD infected animals don’t show physical signs of having the disease until the very late stages.
“A deer with CWD, most of the time, will look just like any other deer out there,” said Vore.
In addition to check stations, two transport restriction zones are in place this year in portions of Liberty and Carbon counties where CWD has previously been found.
“We don’t want hunters transporting the brain, whole head or spinal column of deer or elk outside of those areas because of the risk of spreading the disease elsewhere in the state,” said Vore.
The transport restriction zones do allow for animals to be transported to a nearby meat processor or taxidermist.
In Liberty County, whole carcasses of animals may not be transported out of Liberty, Toole, or Hill counties and animals harvested in Carbon County can be transported only in Carbon or Yellowstone counties.
Since CWD was discovered in Montana the state has held two special hunts to determine how widespread the disease was in the affected areas of south-central and north-central Montana.
Tests determined that CWD may be found in as many as 8 percent of mule deer in southernmost Carbon County along the Wyoming state line.
In north-central Montana, in portions of Liberty County along the Canadian border, fewer than 1 percent of mule deer are estimated to be affected.
Vore warns if CWD isn’t properly managed the disease can have dire consequences for Montana deer and elk herds.
“It’s important that hunters and other people realize the threat and the risk that this poses to our wildlife in the state,” said Vore. “In other states for example where it’s been there for a long time, it’s reduced populations by 45 percent. In some cases its reduced populations by 20 percent a year.”
“Our prevalence, thankfully, right now is relatively low,” added Vore,”So we would like to keep it there or even lower if we can through responsible game management.”
FWP will also be implementing CWD information into Hunter Education programs this year to help educate the next generation of hunters.
FWP says that there is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, the World Health Organization and the federal Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommend not consuming meat from an animal known to be infected with CWD.
Furthermore, the CDC recommends that hunters strongly consider having their animals tested before eating the meat when hunting in areas where CWD is known to be present.
For more information about CWD and the new restrictions visit the FWP’s website.
By John Riley – MTN News