A sixth white-tailed deer in Libby is suspected to be positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, and Montana wildlife managers are ramping up education efforts and releasing more details about this fall’s special hunt.
The Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in Fort Collins, Colorado, notified Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on Wednesday of the suspected positive sample from a road-killed doe found along U.S. Highway 2 near Flower Creek. A second test on the sample will occur for confirmation.
So far, the lab has tested 66 samples, including 59 white-tailed deer, six mule deer, and one moose, that either were symptomatic or road-killed. Only the six white-tailed deer were positive.
Dillon Tabish, a spokesperson for FWP, said they’re scaling back the testing of the road-killed deer. But hunters within a CWD Management zone, which is about 10 miles around the detection sites, must submit samples from any animal harvested for testing, including elk and moose.
“We’re testing some within that urban center, but quit collecting and testing the road kill because where the six detections occurred are in the urban center,” Tabish said. “Ideally, with the hunting season, we can get that sampling going.”
The CWD management plan also calls for placing “clover traps” on public property later this fall to capture more urban deer for sampling. The deer will be moved to a site where they’ll be shot, and samples sent to the lab. Those that test negative will be donated to local food banks.
“We don’t have a firm date for that to start,” Tabish said. “At this time of year it’s hard to trap because there’s so much food everywhere else that they won’t enter a trap. Later this fall or early winter is when we’ll have a much higher success rate.”
Tabish said that due to the number of inquiries he’s fielding, FWP has set up seven more public information meetings in northwest Montana.
“There is a lot of information to share so I really wanted to give as many opportunities as possible for folks to show up,” Tabish said. “We have folks calling from across the northwest asking questions about CWD, and it’s important for folks to know the specific nuances about it.”
The final of three noon informational meetings about CWD is set for next Friday in City Hall in Libby. Meetings that will start at 6 p.m. are slated for Aug. 19 in Eureka at Glacier Bank; Aug. 21 in Polson at Kwataqnuk Resort; Aug. 22 in Trout Creek at Lakeside Resort; Aug. 26 in Kalispell at the FWP Region 1 office; and Aug. 28 in Libby’s City Hall.
FWP also will hold a meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 11 in Kalispell in conjunction with Flathead Wildlife Inc. at the Region 1 office.
“A lot of folks want to know the specifics, like what the best practices are,” Tabish said.
Chronic wasting disease, which is a fatal, degenerative neurological sickness, was first found in Montana in 2017. It occurs mainly in cervids like deer, elk and moose, and hadn’t been detected west of the Continental Divide in Montana until May, when a sick doe was discovered within the Libby city limits.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the disease hasn’t shown the ability to spread to humans, pets or livestock. However, the federal agency recommends testing deer, elk or moose harvested in areas where CWD is known to be present.
In response to the CWD detections, FWP scheduled a Special CWD Hunt in the Libby area this fall. FWP will sell 600 white-tailed deer antlerless B licenses that can only be used in the Libby CWD Management Zone, which includes portions of Hunting Districts 100, 103, and 104. That’s double the entire B licenses that were available in all of the three districts last year.
The special B licenses will go on sale at 8 a.m. Aug. 19 at Koocanusa Resort and Marina in Libby; S and S Sports and Big Bull Sports in Thompson Falls; Booze N Bait, Yaak Mercantile and Tavern, and Steins Troy Market in Troy; Lakeside Motel and Resort in Trout Creek; The Ranch Hand and Northwest Sports Center in Eureka; FWP Region 1 headquarters in Kalispell; and Aitken’s Quik Stop in Noxon.
Hunters will be allowed to purchase two B licenses.
Starting at 10 a.m., the licenses will be available for purchase online statewide at fwp.mt.gov. Tabish expects them to sell out within half an hour.
The B license archery season runs from Sept. 7 to Oct. 20 during the regular archery season. Successful archers must drop off the head of their harvested animal at the FWP office in Libby at 385 Hatchery Road. They’ll get a plastic tag with a unique identification number, and biologists will take samples for testing. Archers can go online at fwp.mt.gov/CWD to see if their animal is positive or negative for the disease. Results usually are available within 10 to 14 days.
If an animal tests positive, the hunter will be given a new B license. All animals must be tested within three days of being harvested.
The situation is similar for the special CWD rifle hunt that begins Oct. 26 and runs through Dec. 1 in the CWD management zone. However, hunters should take the harvested heads to the Montana Department of Transportation on Highway 2 near mile market 35, and will follow the same process as archers. That drop-off zone will be open every day from 11 a.m. to 1 ½ hour after sunset.
Hunters who quarter or bone out their animals in the field still must bring the heads to FWP for sampling. The exact location of the kill must be documented.
Tabish notes that to reduce the chance of CWD spreading, whole carcasses, whole heads or spinal columns cannot be taken out of the Libby CWD Management Zone unless the animal has tested negative for CWD. He strongly urges hunters to dispose of hides, bones and trimmings at approved landfills such as the Lincoln County Landfill. If the carcass is processed within the CWD Management Zone, any brain and spinal parts must be discarded in the Lincoln County Landfill.
Carcass parts that can be removed from the CWD management zone include meat that is cut and wrapped or separated from the bone; meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; hides with no heads attached; and skull plates or antlers with no meat attached, including skulls that were boiled and cleaned to remove flesh and tissue.