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Tissue sampling

Fish, Wildlife and Parks' technicians Jessica Goosmann, left, and Sean Flynn cut lymph nodes from the head of a mule deer doe harvested during Montana's first chronic wasting disease hunt, which started on Dec. 15.

BRETT FRENCH, Gazette Staff

At least nine deer infected with chronic wasting disease were harvested during Montana's first special hunts to gauge the distribution and prevalence of the disease. The hunts concluded on Feb. 15.

Of those deer that so far have tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Montana:

  • Seven were mule deer from southern Carbon County.
  • One was a white-tailed deer harvested near Joliet in Carbon County.
  • One was a mule deer killed in northern Liberty County.

The last of the results, from deer harvested during the final weeks of the season, will be available in about two weeks.

Montana's first special deer hunt to gauge the distribution and prevalence of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, ended Thursday with 216 mule deer and 123 white-tailed deer harvested.

CWD was found southeast of Bridger in Carbon County during the 2017 general big game season. It was the first time CWD was found in wild game herds in Montana.

As a result, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks scheduled a two-month special season to track where CWD was present and what percent of the population was infected. Biologists set a quota of 200 mule deer and 200 white-tailed deer to get a statistically valid sample. In addition to deer harvested by hunters, biologists and game wardens gathered samples from deer that died of other causes, including collisions with vehicles. Tissue samples were taken from all of the deer.

Once the final numbers are in, FWP biologists will determine the next steps in trying to keep CWD from spreading. Already the department has established a transportation restriction zone that precludes hunters from removing certain parts of deer killed in much of Carbon County to anyplace other than Carbon and Yellowstone counties.

CWD is a progressive, fatal neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It has been present for some years in states and Canadian provinces north, east and south of Montana, but was first found in wild deer in the state this fall during focused CWD surveillance throughout south-central Montana.

CWD has not been shown to spread to people, pets, livestock or wildlife outside of the deer family. However, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend not consuming meat from an animal known to be infected with CWD. The CDC also recommends hunters have deer tested if they were harvested in areas where CWD is known to be present.

More information about CWD and the special hunt is available online at