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White-tailed deer in southwest Montana tests positive for CWD

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More than 130 deer have tested positive in Montana this year for the fatal Chronic Wasting Disease. NPS PHOTO

MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE AND PARKS

A white-tailed deer harvested during the general hunting season by a hunter in the Ruby Valley in southwest Montana has tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The Ruby Valley deer was harvested on private land about a mile west of Sheridan, within Hunting District 322. This case is the first detection of CWD in southwest Montana. A second white-tailed deer buck harvested in the area tested positive shortly after the first.

The latest batch of testing has turned up other new positive samples from deer harvested within CWD Management Zones elsewhere in the state where the disease is known to exist.

This year Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks conducted CWD surveillance in parts of northern, western and southeastern Montana, primarily from hunter-harvested animals. In addition, hunters in all parts of the state were able to submit their own samples for testing. All samples are sent for testing to Colorado State University and those results were reported on a weekly basis to FWP. This is the last round of results from animals harvested during the general rifle season. Hunters who submitted animals for testing can visit fwp.mt.gov/CWD to check for their results.

This year, more than 7,000 animals have been sampled statewide, and as of Dec. 23, 131 have tested positive for CWD. CWD has been detected across much of Montana, including the northwest, northeast, southeast and southwest.

With the general hunting season now closed, FWP will review management strategies, testing results and other collected information to make plans for the next necessary steps in managing the disease. CWD cannot be eradicated once it infects a herd.

CWD is a fatal disease that can affect the nervous system of deer, elk and moose. Transmission can most commonly occur through direct contact between animals, including urine, feces, saliva, blood and antler velvet. Carcasses of infected animals may serve as a source of environmental contamination as well and can infect other animals that come into contact with it.

The disease was first discovered in the wild in Montana south of Billings in 2017. There is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters harvesting an animal in an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested. If the animal tests positive, CDC advises against eating the meat.

Hunters who harvest deer or elk during late seasons can still submit their lymph nodes for testing to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks lab in Bozeman. Instructions can be found at fwp.mt.gov/CWD for sampling your own animal and mailing the samples to the lab.

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