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Moose Tests Positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Libby Area

Kalispell, MT — A second moose has tested positive for chronic wasting disease in northwest Montana.

A hunter harvested the bull moose during the last week of the general hunting season near Fawn Creek southeast of Libby. The moose was harvested within the Libby CWD Management Zone near the southeastern boundary.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks collected the sample from the moose Dec. 1 at the Libby Sampling Station on U.S. Highway 2 and submitted it for testing to the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. The lab identified it to be suspected of CWD infection on Jan. 14 and confirmed the positive detection Jan. 17 with a second test.

CWD was first detected in the Libby area in the spring of 2019 after a white-tailed deer tested positive. FWP established the Libby CWD Management Zone, spanning a 10-mile radius around town, and began surveillance efforts to identify the prevalence and distribution of the disease. Surveillance efforts included sampling road-killed and symptomatic animals, deer trapped in the urban center of town, and hunter harvests of deer, elk and moose inside the CWD Management Zone. More than 950 samples were collected and tested inside the Management Zone.

To date, 61 white-tailed deer, two moose and one mule deer have tested positive for CWD in the Libby area. The first moose to test positive was harvested approximately half a mile outside the northwest corner of the Libby CWD Management Zone in late October. The rest of the positives have all occurred within the Management Zone, and a majority were near the urban center of town.

The estimated prevalence of CWD in the Libby urban area, identified as the Libby Survey Area, is approximately 13 percent. In the greater Libby CWD Management Zone, the estimated prevalence is nearly 4 percent.

“FWP is working with the City of Libby as it considers an urban deer management plan that would reduce the density of deer in the Libby Survey Area and hopefully reduce the prevalence and spread of CWD,” said FWP Region 1 Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson.

During the 2020 hunting season setting process, FWP is proposing an over-the-counter either-sex white-tailed deer B license for both the archery and general hunting seasons that would only be valid inside the Libby CWD Management Zone. This license would increase overall harvest of white-tailed deer within the Libby CWD Management Zone with the goal of reducing the spread of CWD. Public input is open until Jan. 27, and the Fish and Wildlife Commission will review this proposal at its February meeting.

CWD is a fatal disease that can affect the nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. Transmission can most commonly occur through direct contact between cervids, as well as shed in urine, feces, saliva, blood and antler velvet from infected cervids. Carcasses of infected cervids may serve as a source of environmental contamination as well and can infect other cervids that come into contact with that carcass.

There is no known transmission of CWD to humans or other animals, including pets or livestock. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 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.