With rifle season opening next week, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is expanding its chronic wasting disease surveillance program.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system of deer, elk, and moose.
Similar to mad cow disease, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy and affected animals experience drastic weight loss, listlessness, and behavioral changes.
The disease is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.
Due to a decrease in national funding for CWD surveillance, the current state’s plan calls for rotating surveillance efforts among the south-central, north-central, east, and southeast areas.
The south-central priority area will be the focus this year.
To help with the CWD surveillance, the Mule Deer Foundation donated $5,000 and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation donated $10,000.
FWP surveillance efforts depend on receiving animal samples from game check stations and cooperating meat processors and taxidermists.
CWD has yet to be found in Montana’s wild deer, elk, and moose populations but FWP believes it is only a matter of time before it is discovered in the state.
“Chronic wasting disease has been found in Wyoming, fairly close to Montana’s border [only] 8 miles away,” FWP Information Bureau Chief Greg Lemon said. “What we want to do is find out if it’s here and then be active in managing it so that we can protect our deer and elk herds.”
Lemon added that early detection is key to the management of CWD and protecting Montana’s herds.
FWP is also asking people who get salvage permits for roadkill deer in specific counties to voluntarily submit their heads for testing.
Those counties are: Sheridan, Treasure, Daniels, Valley, Toole, Phillips, Liberty, Blaine, Hill, Custer, Rosebud, Musselshell, Golden Valley, Yellowstone, Carter, Sweet Grass, Park, Stillwater, Big Horn, Powder River, Carbon, Granite, and Roosevelt.
There has been no evidence showing that CWD is transmissible to humans but FWP recommends to never ingest meat from any animal that appears to be sick.
For more information about CWD and the reporting process, visit here.