HELENA – With general big game season over in Montana, the primary surveillance effort for chronic wasting disease is complete, although results are still coming in.
From July 1 through Dec. 3, testing has detected 134 positive cases so far. Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks employees have processed more than 7,000 samples. Since 2017, FWP has sampled 17,960 deer, elk and moose combined statewide, with 316 positives.
This season, CWD-positive animals were newly detected in hunting districts 309, 314, 326, 320, and 622.
The average testing turn-around time was seven days this year, as opposed to 19 days last year. Moose samples took significantly longer to test than deer and elk, both because samples had to be shipped to Colorado State University and because the test for moose is a bit different and is more labor and time intensive.
“This year, with the COVID pandemic, we had more logistical challenges than normal, but overall the sampling went well,” said Ken McDonald, FWP wildlife division administrator. “We were able to get hunters their sample results quicker by utilizing the new testing capabilities of the Montana Department of Livestock’s diagnostic lab in Bozeman. We have really appreciated their help, as have hunters. We had some new areas with detections as well, which does reinforce the assumption that the disease is widespread across the state.”
This season, FWP focused on three CWD surveillance areas – northwest Montana, southwest Montana and eastern Montana. A map of those areas can be found here.
In southwest Montana, FWP is looking to both get more hunter-submitted samples from whitetail deer and reduce whitetail deer numbers. The department is asking the Fish and Wildlife Commission at their December 10 meeting to extend whitetail deer harvest opportunities in several hunting districts: