BILLINGS – A white-tailed deer killed last month northeast of Huntley tested positive on initial tests for chronic wasting disease (CWD). It marks an expansion of the area where the disease has been found. All previous south central Montana cases were confined to eastern Carbon County.
The two-year-old buck was humanely dispatched by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks after it exhibited symptoms of CWD. Initial tests run on laboratory samples sent to Colorado State University confirmed that the deer suffered from CWD.
As a result, FWP will establish a new CWD management zone that encompasses all of Yellowstone County and the portion of Big Horn County north of Interstate 90 and west of the Bighorn River. The new zone will restrict hunters who harvest a deer, elk or moose in Yellowstone County from transporting the head or spine out of the county or adjacent CWD management zones. Carcass transport restrictions will be the same as those listed in hunting regulations for other Montana management zones and further details will be published as they are decided by FWP biologists and managers.
Montana restricts transport of the head or spinal column from deer, elk and moose harvested in a CWD management zone specifically to stem the inadvertent spread of the disease. Maps and descriptions of CWD management zones are in the 2019 hunting regulations and the most current maps will be online at fwp.mt.gov/CWD. The Yellowstone County CWD management zone will be in addition to those published in the regulations.
CWD is a progressive, always-fatal disease affecting the nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. It is spread primarily through animal-to-animal contact or animal contact with infected materials and tissue. Infected tissue can be spread by humans, often by dumping animal remains outside of approved landfills.
CWD has spread slowly, but persistently, across the landscape. In Montana it first was detected in Carbon County in 2017 and presumably spread from deer moving between Montana and Wyoming, where the disease has been present and increasing for a number of years. Other cases of CWD have been discovered along Montana’s northern border, in areas adjacent to infected deer herds in Canada. This year the Libby CWD management zone in northwestern Montana has documented a number of cases.
There is no known transmission of CWD to humans or other animals, including pets or livestock. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters harvesting a deer, elk or moose from an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested for CWD prior to consuming the meat, and to not consume the meat if the animal tests positive.