Chronic Wasting Disease comes to Carbon County

By: 
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter

On Wednesday evening, Nov. 29, there was a meeting held by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) at Mountain View Elementary School about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). About 60-70 people attended. Dr. Emily Almberg, Disease Ecologist from the State lab, presented an explanation of the fatal neurological disease in deer, elk and moose.
It was announced that there will be a special hunt this month for mule deer (subject to expansion).
Bob Gibson from FWP explained, “The hunt is really not to control it but to figure it out. We want to know the percentage of deer with CWD, the distribution. What acres and what counties and that will help us make our decision on what we do from here.”
FWP informed attendees of the parameters of a hunt.
Bob Gibson from FWP explained. “The current proposal is to have two hunts, one from December 15 through January 14, and the second to be held January 15 through February 15. There will be 1000 mule deer tags: 500 tags for each hunt and each person may apply for up to seven tags (subtracting any current tags obtained this season).”
Gibson stressed that the hunts must be approved by the Commission which will be meeting and making this decision on December 7. The area of the hunt will be “everything south and east of Red Lodge in Hunting District 520 and from Fromberg to the Reservation and south.” There will be a special CWD B tag. He said if you already have a tag “you won’t be able to use it here.”
Anyone participating in the special hunt must get his animal tested. “We will have check stations all over taking samples.”
The reason there will be two hunts is that “Everybody wants to hunt the first day and nobody wants to hunt in February.”
Of the 500 tags in each hunt, 100 tags will be for bucks and 400 for antlerless only.
Gibson said of the hunters participating in the season that just closed the Sunday after Thanksgiving, “Hunters have been very, very cooperative, very helpful.” They’ve been bringing many animals in from all over to be tested. “I suspect most who are aware of Chronic Wasting Disease will not eat their animals until the test comes back.” He said the tests are coming back much faster than the average time the lab predicts (3 weeks) and answers are being received more often in 10-12 days. He expects hunting interest to “pick up again” with this new hunt.
“That’s how we’re getting it done. So far they’ve been really good.”
When asked if he feels they can get in front of this disease in Montana Gibson said, “We’ve had two positive tests. I’d be really really happy if we never get another positive. We know CWD is on the landscape and we know we’ll pick up another positive.”
Gibson remains optimistic. He feels the extreme testing that will be done in the special hunt is a significant step in targeting the most effective response.
They’ve had one mule deer confirmed as positive “south of Bridger and Belfry-that’s all we know. Was it the whole herd or just those two?”
Chronic wasting disease test results from samples collected last week all came back negative, according to FWP on Wednesday, Nov. 29. This news comes after positive tests in two successive weeks. 
“During this surveillance period, we’re remaining vigilant and hunters are coming through for us in a big way,” said Barb Beck, FWP Region 5 supervisor and CWD incident command team lead. “Since our positive test, we’ve had a good uptick in the number of samples being submitted for testing. This is going a long way to helping us determine where the disease may be.”
Two mule deer bucks tested positive for CWD in the past three weeks. One buck was killed in late October, 10 miles southeast of Bridger, the other was killed in early November, 3 miles south of Belfry. FWP formed an incident command team immediately to respond to the discoveries and that group is working with other state agencies, local jurisdictions, Crow Nation, hunters and landowners to implement FWP’s CWD response plan.
Two public meetings were held-the one in Red Lodge and one in Bridger also on Nov. 29.
FWP is currently operating a surveillance effort in south central Montana – the area where CWD was first discovered in Montana this fall. This effort has entailed collecting samples from deer, elk and moose at check stations within the priority surveillance area. These samples are sent to a lab at Colorado State University and results are posted online weekly at fwp.mt.gov/CWD.
Following the discovery of CWD in the area, FWP has seen a significant increase in the number of samples submitted by hunters at both the check stations and at regional offices. For week 4 of surveillance, 192 samples were submitted for testing. However, for week 5, last week, that number rose to 351.
“We understand hunters are concerned about CWD and we’re encouraging all successful deer, elk and moose hunters in our priority surveillance area to get their animals sampled.  In addition to allowing us to assure hunters about the safety of their meat, they are helping us gather needed information about the disease,” Beck said.
UPDATE: CWD in a white-tailed deer doe in the northern part of Carbon County (east of Joliet) has been discovered during the Nov. 16-17 study. FWP proposes to extend hunt north to the Yellowstone River and East to Crooked Creek. A special white-tailed deer “B” license would be issued.
A FWP CWD Update Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 14, at Joliet Community Center for latest breaking news. Check CCN Website to see if all hunts have been approved by Commission on Thursday, Dec. 7, and for license sale dates.

Tips For Hunters

Though there is no evidence CWD is transmissible to humans, it is recommended to never eat meat from animals that appear to be sick or are known to be CWD positive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hunters who have harvested a deer, elk, or moose from a known CWD-infected area have the animal tested prior to consuming it. If hunters harvest an animal that appears to be sick, the best thing to do is contact FWP and have the animal sampled.
Some simple precautions should be taken when field dressing deer, elk or moose:
• Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when field dressing.
• Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
• Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.
• Avoid consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field dressing coupled with boning out of a carcass will essentially remove these parts.)
Montanans need to remember that Montana law prohibits the import of heads and spinal columns of deer, elk or moose harvested in states or provinces that have CWD in wild or captive populations.
Out of state hunters should check their state’s carcass transport restrictions since Montana is now a CWD-positive state.  Hunters should also dispose of carcass waste in a Class 2 landfill. A Class 2 landfill accepts all solid waste, except regulated hazardous waste. Most major landfills in Montana are Class 2. However, if you have any questions, contact your city or county public works director. Disposing of carcass waste on the landscape is considered littering and it may facilitate the spread of CWD.
Stay informed
For more information, please see our website fwp.mt.gov/CWD. If you have questions or concerns, feel free to email the CWD response team at CWDresponse@mt.gov

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