Deer suspected of carrying chronic wasting disease

MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE & PARKS

A chronic wasting disease sample collected by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in late October from a hunter-killed deer was found to be suspect for chronic wasting disease.

The sample was collected from a mule deer buck harvested in hunting district 510 south of Billings. A second sample collected from the animal was sent to the lab at Colorado State University for further testing. If the result is positive, it will mark the first time CWD has appeared in wild deer, elk or moose in Montana.

“We’ve suspected it wasn’t a matter of if, but when CWD would show up in Montana,” said Ken McDonald, FWP wildlife division administrator. “Fortunately, we’ve done a lot of work to prepare for this, and are hopeful the prevalence will be low as we work toward managing the disease.”

CWD is a progressive, fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. It is a slow-moving disease. However, left unmanaged, it could result in long-term population declines within affected herds.

All the states and provinces that border Montana, other than Idaho and British Columbia, have found CWD in their wild cervids.

Though there is no evidence CWD is transmissible to humans, it is recommended to never ingest meat from animals that appear to be sick or are known to be CWD positive. If hunters harvest an animal that appears to be sick, the best thing to do is contact FWP and have the animal inspected.

For more information and to look at CWD test results, go online to fwp.mt.gov/cwd.

Big Sky voters grant funds to fire department

By Jessianne Wright EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Preliminary results for the Big Sky Fire Department’s mill levy request indicate local approval for BSFD plans to expand. As of EBS press time on Nov. 8, initial tallies found 515 votes in favor of and 335 opposed to the $1.5 million request.

Fire Chief William Farhat says the news is great for the department as well as the people they serve. “It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to expand our ability to provide services to the community,” he said. By 2021, after both of Big Sky’s two fire stations have been renovated and 11 employees have been hired, Farhat said “we’ll be in a much better position to provide services.”

There were a few provisionary ballots waiting to be tallied as of EBS press time but Gallatin County election administrator Charlotte Mills said these likely wouldn’t change the final results.

“It’s a relief, but now the work starts,” Farhat said.

In 2016 the fire department contracted Emergency Services Consulting, International to perform an evaluation of Big Sky and the department. This study identified a need to expand fire department facilities and increase staffing as the area’s population continues to boom.

Following the passage of this mill levy, BSFD will begin designing station renovations this winter. Station 1 will see facility updates to the bathroom, kitchen and bedrooms and the leaking roof will be repaired. At Station 2, BSFD plans to add bedrooms to accommodate 24-hour occupancy.

Ground breaking on these renovations is expected to come in the spring, with completion anticipated by the beginning of 2019.

Next year, the department plans to hire a fire marshal who will help with wildfire prevention and education, and firefighters and a fire inspector will be hired in stages so that by 2021 there will be 9 additional firefighters working in the department.

Skyline expands bus services leading into winter season

EBS STAFF

Commuters making the trip between Big Sky and Bozeman will have expanded options on the Link Express bus system run by Skyline come Monday, Nov. 20, when the winter schedule goes into effect.

Skyline has added three additional round-trip rides from last winter’s schedule, which could help alleviate the issue of overly full buses. “We do have a couple busses in the morning that will kind of mirror each other that will help with some capacity issues,” said Big Sky Transportation District Coordinator David Kack.

Kack said the winter service starts at 4:30 a.m. and picks up its last group of Big Sky passengers bound for Bozeman at 2:15 a.m. “We’re basically 24 hours a day going back and forth between the communities.”

It costs between $135,000 to $140,000 to offer a new roundtrip commuter route given the cost of drivers and fuel, Kack said.

“I just keep saying that more and more employees need it [and] until that housing issue gets addressed in Big Sky, it means more and more commuting,” Kack said.

Kack said he’s grateful for Madison County’s decades-long support and Gallatin County’s funding approval for the past two years. “I think those are going to be partnerships we need moving ahead as we look at the growth of Big Sky.”

For a detailed route map and schedule for Skyline Bus Service, visit skylinebus.com.

State taking applications for suicide prevention grants

HELENA (AP) – Montana’s health department is taking applications from schools and communities for suicide prevention grants.

The Legislature appropriated $1 million to support prevention programs. School-based programs can seek money from a $250,000 grant pool. Community-based programs supervised by a health care provider, veterans’ programs and others can seek money from a $500,000 appropriation. Another $250,000 was set aside to continue implementing a plan to reduce suicide among Native American youth.

Sheila Hogan, director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services, says proposals must be submitted by 2 p.m. on Dec. 1.

To be eligible, an organization must provide evidence that the activity it plans is effective at preventing suicide.