CWD regulations in Montana

Due to the regular amending of regulations in Montana, it is recommended that before hunting you check these CWD regulations, as well as those of any other states or provinces in which you will be hunting or traveling through while transporting cervid carcasses. The contact information for Montana can be seen below:

Click a section to expand:


Testing Laboratories in Montana

All samples are sent to Colorado: Colorado State University Diagnostic Laboratory
300 W. Drake St. Ft.Collins, CO 80523
970-491-1281 or 970-491-6143

Locations Where CWD Was Found

Hunting districts 5, 510 and 401

Most Recent CWD News

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  • Hunting - Region 4 Thursday, February 08, 2018 At the end of the fifth weekend of the Sage Creek Special Chronic Wasting Disease Hunt in northern Liberty County, hunters have checked in 113 mule deer. So far 109 of the deer have tested negative for CWD,
    Read More
  • A mule deer buck shot by a hunter Nov. 12 north of Chester on the Hi-Line near the Canadian border has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

    The deer was taken in hunting district 401 in Liberty County.

    The test results mark the fifth incident

    Read More
  • A second test on a tissue sample from a buck harvested in hunting district 510, south of Billings, has come back positive for chronic wasting disease.

    This buck was harvested Oct. 22 about 10 miles southeast of Bridger. Initial testing received by Montana Fish, Wildlife

    Read More
  • A second mule deer buck from hunting district 510 was found to be suspect for chronic wasting disease.

    This buck was harvested about 3 miles south of Belfry. A second sample from the buck is being tested by the lab at Colorado State University, with

    Read More
  • A chronic wasting disease sample collected by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in late October from a hunter-killed deer was found to be suspect for chronic wasting disease.

    The sample was collected from a mule deer buck harvested in hunting district 510 south of Billings.

    Read More
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks tested more than 1,300 deer, elk and moose collected during the 2010-2011 hunting season and did not detect chronic wasting disease in any of the animals.

    Montana’s detection program tests sick and road-killed deer, elk and moose, and has relied heavily

    Read More
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Category Archives: Montana

FWP Announces Prevention And Management Plans For Chronic Wasting Disease

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has adopted a Chronic Wasting Disease management plan to help protect Montana’s wild deer and elk from infection and to manage the disease should it occur here. CWD, a chronic brain disease in deer and elk that is always fatal, has not yet been found in wild herds in Montana.

“We have worked with the best scientific knowledge available and representatives from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, the Montana Department of Livestock and the public to come up with a flexible but comprehensive plan to help prevent CWD and to manage it if it occurs in Montana,” said Tim Feldner, FWP’s CWD plan coordinator.

CWD has been detected in Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, and Colorado among other states, and in Saskatchewan and Alberta. No one is sure where CWD came from. It first showed up in the wild in 1981. Since then it has been found in wild herds or alternative livestock ranches, or game farms, in 13 states and two provinces.

“We are working to prevent CWD from entering the state, monitoring Montana’s wild game for the disease, and preparing, through research and planning, to manage it if it does occur,” Feldner said.

Prevention measures now being implemented include:

  • prohibiting all baiting and feeding of wild game animals;
  • prohibiting transport into Montana of heads and spinal cords of deer, elk and moose harvested in states or provinces where CWD infected wildlife have been found;
  • discontinuing the rehabilitation of orphan deer fawns and elk calves at the Helena wildlife rehabilitaiton center where an infected animal could spread the disease to others that might then be released back into the wild;
  • preventing potential contamination of the environment by proper disposal of heads and spinal columns from private and commercial butchering; and
  • a critical re-examination of policies on the import and movement of captive wild game within the state.

Feldner said it is essential to properly dispose of waste from wild game to avoid unknowingly contaminating the environment. Research in other states has demonstrated that the CWD prion that causes the infection may remain viable in the soil for years.

“Effective management of CWD once it occurs depends on quick actions and on a high level of cooperation among state, federal and tribal agencies, hunters, landowners and others,” Feldner said. “The longer CWD exists in an area, the more potential there is for exposing more animals and expanding the area of infection.”

Feldner said Montana’s detection program tests road-killed animals and hunter harvest samples collected in “high risk” areas along Montana’s borders with Wyoming, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Over the past 8 years, FWP has tested more than 9,300 wild elk or deer in Montana for CWD and has not yet found any evidence of the disease. CWD was diagnosed in 1999 in nine captive elk on an alternative livestock facility near Philipsburg. All the animals there were destroyed and the facility was quarantined. Montana voters passed an initiative the following year that prohibits transfer of existing alternative livestock licenses, ends new licensing, and prohibits shooting captive elk for a fee.

“It appears from the way the disease has spread in the past several years in adjacent states, that it is highly likely CWD will appear here in wild deer and elk herds at some point,” Feldner said. “We’re preparing now to manage that situation as effectively as possible.”

To learn more about CWD or to review Montana’s new CWD management plan, go to the FWP home page at and look under Hot Topics.

If You Find Young Deer, Leave Them Alone

To protect Montana’s deer and elk from the impending threat of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks can no longer safely accept, hold, or rehabilitate deer and elk. FWP Region One Warden Captain Lee Anderson says that this policy is necessary because:

  • CWD, a fatal neurological disease that affects deer and elk, is spreading in the United States and Canada. CWD has yet to be documented in wild populations in Montana, but it is found in nearby states and provinces.

  • Wildlife health experts believe it is only a matter of time before CWD is found in Montana. FWP’s surveillance for CWD in Montana is in its 7th year. The agency is developing a CWD action plan to be implemented should CWD be found in Montana.

  • An infected animal housed at FWP’s rehabilitation center—or any holding facility—could spread CWD from there back into the wild.

What Can You Do?

Leave It There: It’s natural for deer and elk to leave their young alone for extended periods of time. What appears to be an orphaned animal may not be.

Control Your Dog: A number of the animals FWP receives are the result of dog attacks. Keep your dog under control, especially in the spring when newborn wildlife is most vulnerable. Pet owners can be cited and dogs that harass or kill wildlife may by law have to be destroyed.

Keep In Mind: It is illegal to possess and care for a live animal taken from the wild. Should someone bring a deer or elk to FWP, they’ll be asked to take the animal back to the site where it was found. If the animal can’t be returned to the wild, it will be humanely euthanized.

North-Border Hunters Encouraged to Submit Deer and Elk Heads for CWD Testing

Deer and elk hunters who harvest game in hunting districts north of U.S. Highway 2 are encouraged to donate their animal’s head to determine if chronic wasting disease has entered Montana.

Fish, Wildlife & Parks is collecting heads of hunter-killed deer and elk to test for the presence of the always-fatal disease, which has been documented in Saskatchewan fewer than 100 miles north of the Montana border. Collection barrels are located across the Hi-Line, including at Opheim’s Pro Co-op, FWP’s Glasgow office, Hi-Line Sports in Plentywood, the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge and Westside Sports in Malta.

“We are collecting heads from deer and elk harvested across northeast and north-central Montana,” says wildlife biologist Kelvin Johnson, based in Glasgow. “But because of CWD’s presence in Saskatchewan, we want to intensively monitor those animals harvested on or near the border. Hunters who harvest deer or elk in hunting districts 611, 670 and 640 are especially encouraged to donate heads for CWD testing. We feel that it’s not a matter of if, but rather when, CWD enters Montana, and we’d like to detect it sooner rather than later.”

Johnson stresses that hunters who donate heads need to take these simple, but vital, steps:

  • Note precisely the location where the animal was harvested. They should use GPS coordinates or legal descriptions (township, section and range) and note any drainages or landmarks. The geographical information is needed to pinpoint the harvest location in case the head tests positive for CWD.

  • Leave evidence of sex attached to the carcass. Hunters should leave reproductive organs or mammary glands attached to the carcass so that sex can be determined even after the head is removed.

  • Remove the head at the first vertebrae. This will allow technicians to remove the intact brain stem, which is then tested for the disease.

  • Leave name, ALS number and a phone number on tags located at collection barrels. FWP will contact hunters if their sample tests positive for CWD.

Three New CWD Depots Available for NE Montana Hunters

Three sites in northeastern Montana have been added to locations where hunters can drop off deer and elk heads to be tested for chronic wasting disease.

The Pro Co-Op in Opheim, West Side Sports in Malta and Hi-Line Sports in Plentywood will have barrels available for CWD collection. Hunters are asked to drop off heads of mule and white-tailed deer as well as elk in the barrels, fill out a form providing the hunter’s name, ALS number and a time and location specifying when and where the animal was harvested. It’s important that hunters give as detailed information as possible about the harvest area in case CWD is detected in their sample. It’s also important that the heads be removed from carcasses so that a sample can be removed from the brain stem.

Chronic wasting disease is an always fatal neurological disease that affects deer and elk. It has not been detected in Montana’s wild populations of deer and elk but because it is present in southern Saskatchewan, FWP is closely monitoring for it along the northern border.

Other collection sites in Region 6 include: FWP offices in Glasgow and Havre, Treasure Trail Meat Processing in Glasgow, the CMR field station at Sand Creek on Highway 191 south of the Fred Robinson Bridge, the Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge south of Medicine Lake and the Havre check station.

Call FWP’s Glasgow office at 228-3700 with any questions about CWD monitoring or details about information needed from donated heads.

State Mulls Response to Chronic Wasting Disease

HELENA – Ideas on how to deal with chronic wasting disease in Montana range from doing nothing to killing every deer or elk within 80 square miles of where the first diseased animal is found, a new management study shows.

The plans, analyzed in an environmental study that went to printers Monday, look at both preventing chronic wasting in Montana and responding when, and if, prevention efforts fail. “We do expect to find it at some point,” said Tim Feldner, head of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Park’s commercial wildlife permitting department and author of the study. “This year? Sometime in the next five years? We just don’t know.”

Chronic wasting is a brain-killing disease of deer and elk related to mad cow disease in cattle, scrapie in sheep and a similar brain-wasting disease in people. It is always fatal and thought to be associated with misshapen proteins called prions that clump up in the brains of victims.

Chronic wasting first showed up at a Colorado research facility in the 1960s and has since been found in wild and game farm animals in a host of states – from New York to New Mexico. So far, no wild animals in Montana have come down with the disease, although it did show up in 1998 and 1999 in elk at a game farm near Philipsburg. Those animals were all destroyed and their carcasses burned.

Montana voters in 2000 outlawed any new game farms, in part to control the spread of the disease.

The disease has since been found in wild animals within 100 to 150 miles of the state line in Saskatchewan, Canada, Wyoming and South Dakota.

“It’s definitely close to our border,” Feldner said.

The study looked at six different ways to deal with the disease, ranging from doing nothing to complete local extermination.

The most relaxed plan calls for doing nothing other than surveillance in parts of the state most likely to see the first chronic wasting case. When an animal tests positive for the disease, the plan calls again for doing nothing.

A more aggressive plan would stiffen laws dealing with feeding and baiting deer and elk, do away with rehabilitating orphaned deer and elk fawns, and ban imports of certain parts of deer and elk hunted outside the state. The plan also calls for mandating that any deer and elk carcasses be disposed of in certain kinds of landfills.

If the disease shows up, the plan calls for testing animals in a designated “high-risk zone” near where the first case is found. All animals hunted in the zone would be tested for chronic wasting. If, during the testing period, more than 5 percent of the animals tested have chronic wasting, half of all the animals in the area would be destroyed.

The most aggressive plan calls for killing every deer and elk within at least 80 square miles around where the first positive case is found.

The study also looked at what the disease may mean to the state’s hunting economy and what, if any, threats chronic wasting may pose for people who handle or eat contaminated meat.

So far, no evidence links eating meat from animals infected with chronic wasting to the brain wasting disease in people. But the study suggests people may choose not to hunt in certain parts of the state or the whole state out of fear.

Controlling the disease is important, Feldner said. Estimates in the study show that if nothing is done to control the spread of chronic wasting, the disease will eventually wipe out entire herds of deer and elk. Fifty years after the disease shows up, about half of all the deer and elk in the state could be gone. A century later, more than 90 percent, if not all, Montana’s deer and elk could be dead.

FWP is now waiting for comments from the public about the plan before making a final decision. The deadline for comments is Sept. 23, and the agency hopes to have a final decision made by at least the end of hunting season, Feldner said.

“If, by chance, we did find chronic wasting this year, that’s going to be the prime season to do something about it,” he said. “We want to have something in place.”

You’re invited

Fish, Wildlife and Parks is hosting seven public meetings to discuss the chronic wasting disease study and hear from the public. All meetings will be at the agency’s regional headquarters offices between 7 and 9 p.m. on these dates:

  • Aug. 16 – Missoula

  • Aug. 23 – Bozeman

  • Aug. 25 – Great Falls

  • Sept. 1 – Kalispell

  • Sept. 13 – Billings

  • Sept. 14 – Miles City

  • Sept. 15 – Glasgow

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