A hunter’s field guide to chronic wasting disease requirements

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As hunting season ramps up, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is the best source for the latest chronic wasting disease (CWD) procedures and instructions. These answers were found by visiting FWP.MT.GOV/CWD.

What is CWD?

CWD is a contagious neurological disease that infects deer, elk and moose. There is no known cure, and it is fatal to infected animals. Animals may be infected for up to two years before showing any symptomatic signs of infection.

You do not have to turn in your animal for testing unless the animal was killed in a CWD zone. All deer, elk and moose harvested within the Libby CWD Management Zone, including any harvested with a Libby Special CWD Hunt B license, must be checked and sampled within three days.

How and where to drop animal for testing

FWP is paying for the testing of samples from hunter-harvested deer, elk and moose anywhere in the state regardless of whether they are in a management zone or sampling area. If these animals come from outside our sampling areas, hunters can either take the samples themselves, fill out the information sheet found online and mail them to FWP lab in Bozeman or bring the animal (or head) to CWD sampling station in Libby.

During general big game season (Oct. 26 to Dec. 1), the Libby Special CWD hunt sampling station will be open every day from 11 a.m. – 1.5 hours after sunset. Hunters are only required to stop at the sampling station if they harvested an animal.

The Canoe Gulch Check Station will be open weekends from 11 a.m. – 1.5 hours after sunset during the general season and all hunters—with or without game—passing the check station must stop.

How long does it take to get results?

If your animal is sampled by FWP staff at a check station or regional office during the general surveillance season or during a special hunt, results will be posted online (fwp.mt.gov/cwd) within three weeks. FWP recommends obtaining results before consuming meat from deer killed within a CWD Management Zone. If your harvested deer is found to be positive, you can dispose of the meat appropriately at a landfill and FWP will provide a new tag for the remaining hunting season.

What if my animal tests positive?

There is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hunters harvesting deer, elk, or moose from an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested prior to consuming the meat. Officials urge hunters not to consume the meat if the animal tests positive.

Some simple precautions should be taken when field dressing deer, particularly in CWD Management Zones: Wear rubber gloves and eye protection when field dressing your deer. Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues. Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed. Avoid processing and eating brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals.

How to dispose carcasses

Hunters are encouraged 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. The facility has a designated space and liner for animals.

Where does CWD come from?

The origin of CWD is unknown. It was discovered in 1967 in mule deer at a research facility in Colorado and has since spread across 26 states, three Canadian provinces, Norway, Finland and South Korea. Concerning Montana, CWD was detected in Philipsburg on an elk farm in the late 1990s. The elk farm was depopulated and ceased operation after CWD was detected. CWD was first found in wild deer in Montana in October 2017.

Preventing the spread

To reduce the spread of CWD, 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. Hunters are strongly encouraged to dispose of hides, bones and trimmings at approved landfills equipped for CWD. If the carcass is processed within the CWD Management Zone, any brain and spinal parts must be discarded in the Lincoln County Landfill.


For questions related to CWD, hunters should review the FWP website or contact:

Libby Area Biologist Tonya Chilton-Radandt, 406-293-4161, ext 209

Libby Area Game Warden Tamie Fitchett, 406-291-1954

FWP Regional Information & Education Program Manager Dillon Tabish, 406-751-4564.

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