Montana considers special mule deer hunt to gauge CWD prevalence

(Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is proposing a special two-month mule deer hunt in south-central Montana near where two bucks – which later tested positive for chronic wasting disease, or CWD – were killed earlier this fall. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is set to decide Dec. 7 on the proposed hunt, which is designed to gauge the prevalence of CWD in the area.

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.

The hunt is part of the department’s CWD response plan and a necessary step to determine the spread of the disease in the area where it was detected. Final approval for the hunt rests with the commission.

The hunt, proposed by FWP’s CWD incident command team, is in draft form because final CWD testing results from samples taken during the general big-game season won’t be available until around Dec. 6. More positive results could lead to an expansion of a hunt area, or the creation of a separate hunt area altogether.

Under the current proposal, the hunt area will include the eastern portion of hunting district 520 southeast of Red Lodge; portions of HD 502 northwest of Belfry and east of Bridger, and the western portion of HD 510. The southern boundary of the hunt area is the Wyoming border. FWP will set exact details on the hunt area boundaries, pending final test results, in time for the commission meeting.

“This is a different scenario than a typical hunt,” said Barb Beck, Region 5 supervisor and CWD incident commander. “We need to harvest animals to get samples to determine disease prevalence. Participating hunters and landowners will be helping with a critical wildlife disease management effort.”

The public will be allowed to comment on the hunt during the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Dec. 7. For more information, email CWDresponse@mt.gov.

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