Montana faces epidemic of chronic wasting disease, measures taken
CARBON COUNTY – December 3, 2018
Local authorities are making every effort to tackle the epidemic of chronic wasting disease, a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose, in Montana. In an attempt to reduce deer populations where CWD has been detected, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing to increase the number of hunting licenses across Carbon County.
The disease could also pose a threat to people.
The proposal will go before the Fish and Wildlife Commission at its December 10 meeting in the capital of the state, Helena. Public comment will run through 5 p.m. on Jan. 18, and a final decision will take place at the February commission meeting. Testing of hunter-harvested deer last year suggested about 2% of the deer population in the county may be infected with the always fatal disease.
This issue has become really difficult for Montana, as deer in the northern part of the state have also tested positive for CWD: two in Liberty County and three in Blaine County. Under the FWP proposals, mule deer regulations will be liberalized to increase the harvest. On the Montana-Wyoming border in Hunting District 510 — which includes the Pryor Mountains and where CWD prevalence is estimated to be highest at 10%— the proposal eliminates the unlimited 510-50 buck mule deer permit and establishes an either-sex mule deer season.
“This season proposal is designed to reduce the number of older age bucks and to stabilize or slightly reduce the mule deer population especially in the area close to the CWD endemic area,” the proposal states. “Maintaining lower densities of mule deer is thought to be the best preventative measure to control the spread of CWD.”
Under the proposal, FWP biologist Shawn Stewart predicted that mule deer buck and doe harvest will increase by about 50%. The post season buck/doe ratio will likely decline to about 10 bucks per 100 does.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk (or "wapiti"), moose, and caribou. As of 2016, CWD had been found in members of the deer family only. First recognized as a clinical "wasting" syndrome in 1967 in mule deer in a wildlife research facility in northern Colorado, USA, it was identified as a TSE in 1978 and has spread to free-ranging and captive populations in 23 US states and two Canadian provinces. CWD is typified by chronic weight loss leading to death.