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CWD techs

Chronic Wasting Disease technicians (from left) Kelsie Buxbaum, Ann Tribby, Annika Bolleson and Melissa Sullivan enter the weekly data they gather while collecting samples from deer and elk to test for CWD. These technicians were hired to gather CWD samples at regional hunter check stations and at the regional FWP office throughout the general hunting season.

Are you hunting in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7 this season and want to have your deer or elk tested for Chronic Wasting Disease?

CWD has not yet been detected in southeastern Montana’s Region 7, but FWP anticipates finding it due to the proximity of CWD cases in other states and provinces. This season FWP is providing free testing services to anyone hunting deer, elk and moose anywhere in Montana. It takes about three weeks to get results online.

CWD sampling is still voluntary in Region 7, but FWP has sampling goals that will help the agency determine how prevalent the disease is across the state. This research will guide future management and prevention efforts.

There have been no cases of CWD transferring to humans, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against eating the meat of an infected animal.

If you would like to have your animal tested, here’s what you can do:

Visit a CWD check station Saturday through Monday.

If you are hunting near Ashland, Hysham or Ekalaka on Saturday, Sunday or Monday through Dec. 1, visit a CWD check station in one of these areas. Stations will be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.-sunset, and on Mondays from 8 a.m.-noon. Bring the animal’s head and 4 inches of neck meat to the station. Technicians there will remove the retropharyngeal lymph nodes from the throat area, collect information on harvest location and submit the sample for testing. Each hunter is given a unique ID number, and he or she can check results online at fwp.mt.gov in about three weeks. If the sample comes back positive for CWD, FWP will contact that hunter directly.

Hunters are reminded that they must stop at all check stations that they pass, even if they have not harvested any animals.

If you are in the Broadus area, technicians will be available to collect samples at the FWP office in Broadus on Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to sunset.

Hunters can also bring the animal’s head to a regional FWP office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. In Region 7 the headquarters is in Miles City. You will be asked to provide information including the township, range and section where the animal was harvested so that FWP can track surveillance efforts and follow up in the event of a CWD-positive sample. Results should be available online in about three weeks.

Hunters also may collect the sample themselves and send it directly to the FWP lab in Bozeman. Videos and instructions for how to do that are online at fwp.mt.gov/cwd. Again, it takes about three weeks to view results online. Hunters must cover shipping costs, but FWP will pay for sample results.

FWP will accept samples from all over Montana, but research efforts are focused on Priority Sampling Areas. Region 7’s Priority Sampling Area covers the southern portions of Hunting Districts 702, 704 and 705. If you harvest an animal inside this area, FWP encourages you to have it tested for CWD. Check stations at Ashland, Hysham and Ekalaka are located within or near the Priority Sampling Area.

CWD Management Zones are areas where CWD is known or suspected to be present. Whole heads, carcasses, brains and spinal columns of animals harvested within those zones cannot be taken out of the areas to prevent the spread of CWD. The Southern CWD Management Zone includes HD 704 south of Highway 212, HDs 502 and 510, that portion of HD 520 east of Highway 212, that portion of HD 575 north and east of Highway 78, that portion of HD 590 south of Interstate 90, plus the communities of Billings, Broadus, and others on the defined boundaries.

The following carcass parts CAN be removed from a CWD Management Zone:

• Meat that is cut and wrapped or meat that is boned out.

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• Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.

• Hides with no heads attached.

• Skull plates or antlers with no meat or tissue attached.

• Skulls that have been boiled and cleaned to remove flesh and tissue.

• Upper canine teeth.

• Head, partial body or whole-body mounts prepared by a taxidermist.

Evidence of the animal’s sex does not have to be attached to any part of the carcass but cannot be destroyed and should accompany the animal from field to point of processing.

FWP recommends taking simple precautions 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 consuming brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field dressing coupled with boning out a carcass will essentially remove these parts.)

Hunters are strongly encouraged to dispose of hides, bones and trimmings at approved landfills in the area they hunt or to leave the spinal column at the kill site (with landowner permission if on private land.) If they bring the whole head to a check station or FWP office for sampling, FWP will dispose of the head. FWP strongly discourages dumping of carcasses or parts near roadways and other areas where hunters do not have permission. It is unsightly and illegal, and if the animal has CWD, the carcass can transmit the disease for at least two years.

For more information on CWD, visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov/cwd.

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