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:

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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

Wildlife Disease Experts Seek Aid; Chronic Wasting Disease Called Threat to Regional Economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Experts in chronic wasting disease told members of the U.S. Senate on Tuesday that states are digging deep into their own pockets because the federal government is not spending enough to monitor and research the illness.

They told members of a Senate Environment and Public Works subcommittee that lawmakers don’t need to create new organizations to fight the deer and elk disease – instead, they should get out their checkbooks.

“Federal and state agencies involved in this endeavor concur that, collectively, all the authorities that are necessary to manage this disease currently exist in law,” said Gary Taylor, who is the legislative director for the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

“What is most needed are adequate congressional appropriations to the federal agencies involved both for their efforts and to pass through to the state, fish and wildlife agencies, state universities and state agriculture departments, to manage CWD,” he said.

Missoula resident and Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance project leader Gary Wolfe told lawmakers that states are siphoning money from other priorities to combat chronic wasting disease, a transmissible neurological disease that produces small lesions in the brains of infected animals.

“The CWD Alliance is particularly concerned that this redirection of limited wildlife agency funds is not adequate to address the CWD issue, and will have negative impacts on other important wildlife management and conservation programs,” Wolfe said.

Cases of chronic wasting disease were first identified in Wyoming in the late 1960s, and the disease was identified as a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) in 1978.

It is similar to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), commonly known as mad cow disease, and the sheep disease scrapie.

Although chronic wasting disease is contagious among deer and elk, there has been no evidence of transmission from deer and elk to humans, cattle or other domestic livestock.

E. Tom Thorne, who is a veterinarian and wildlife disease consultant for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said CWD efforts are drawing department personnel away from other priorities.

“It’s a big area of concern,” Thorne said. “Probably a multitude of programs are suffering. CWD monitoring is very manpower-intensive. They had to call on game wardens and hatchery personnel and basically everyone to pitch in. If there was a warden collecting CWD samples, he wasn’t out there patrolling.”

Senators were told that $52 million has been spent for monitoring and research of chronic wasting disease since 2003. The federal government provided $16.4 million in fiscal year 2003 and $18.5 million in fiscal year 2004. During those two years, states provided $18 million.

The Bush administration has asked for $23.1 million for fiscal year 2005.

Senators were concerned that the administration’s budget proposal would provide only $4.2 million for research.

“It just seems to me that $4.2 million is kind of meager considering the implications on wildlife,” Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said.

Chronic wasting disease has been found in wild elk and deer in Wyoming, but only on game farms in Montana.

While it is still unclear if chronic wasting disease can be transmitted to humans, a jump in chronic wasting disease cases represents a greater threat to the economies of Montana and Wyoming than to the public’s health.

FWP Seeks Comments On Proposed Chronic Wasting Disease Action Plan

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will hold meetings statewide to gather public comments on management options to consider if chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is detected in Montana’s free ranging deer and elk populations.

Wildlife managers and others hope the meetings will also help Montanans become more aware of the disease, the options available to protect wildlife populations, the potential impact of CWD on wildlife and the economy and how other states have managed the disease within their borders.

Since 1996, FWP has randomly tested about 4,500 wild elk and deer and CWD has not been detected. However, with expanded testing by states and provinces, positive cases of CWD have been identified in Wyoming, South Dakota, and Saskatchewan, only 100 miles from the Montana border. Wildlife managers expect CWD will be detected in the future in Montana.

The meetings are scheduled for 6:30 to 9 p.m. in:

  • March 3 Missoula FWP Headquarters: 3201 Spurgin Rd.

  • March 4 Kalispell FWP Headquarters: 490 North Meridian Rd.

  • March 16 Great Falls FWP Headquarters: 4600 Giant Springs Rd.

  • March 18 Bozeman FWP Headquarters: 1400 South 19th

  • March 22 Miles City FWP Headquarters: Industrial Site W

  • March 23 Glasgow FWP Headquarters: Rural Route 1 – 4210

  • March 29 Billings FWP Headquarters: 2300 Lake Elmo Dr.

CWD is a rare neurological disease found in a small percentage of wild deer and elk in limited areas of North America. CWD attacks the brains of infected deer and elk, causing animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and eventually die. There is no known cure for CWD.

For more on CWD, go to the FWP website at and use the search function by entering “CWD,” or go to the CWD Alliance website at . For details, contact FWP at 406-444-4039 or at .

Hunt for a Killer

A leading researcher into wasting diseases such as mad cow says scientists may have long been looking at the wrong culprit

HAMILTON – Bruce Chesebro is waiting for his monkeys to get chronic wasting disease.

A few months ago, Chesebro and other researchers at Rocky Mountain Laboratories here injected a slurry of infected deer brain tissue into the brains of small black-eyed macaque and squirrel monkeys. Other monkeys drank a fruit drink mixed with the tainted brains. Today, the monkeys sit in a room sealed off from most human contact while scientists like Chesebro wonder if one of the world’s most mysterious vectors is eating little holes within their primate brains.

He and his colleagues are part of one of the nation’s oldest and most respected research programs into the bizarre family of brain-wasting diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, or TSEs.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Labs have been quietly shedding light on TSEs since 1961, helping to explain the suite of always deadly ailments that includes chronic wasting in deer and elk, mad cow disease in cattle and a similar malady in humans called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Their work has taken on a new urgency since mad cow disease was found in the United States and everyone from consumers to Congress is demanding to know more about these killers – and how likely people are to catch them.

But what Chesebro has to say may be unsettling: He thinks mainstream science may have been running down the wrong road for decades on TSE research. While conventional wisdom holds that TSEs are caused by an infectious protein, Chesebro thinks it is just as likely – maybe even more so – that these diseases are really caused by some hearty “ubiquitous virus” science has yet to identify. A virus present in everyone’s body.

It’s a suggestion that challenges the very foundations of most TSE research. And, if true, it means science knows even less about a family of diseases experts like Chesebro admit are still largely a mystery.

“We’ve never seen a spontaneously infectious protein,” Chesebro said. “No one has ever generated it in the lab.”

“At its basic element, it’s really pretty simple,” said Suzette Priola, another Rocky Mountain Labs researcher. “A normal protein goes bad.”

All TSEs are marked by a phenomenon Priola describes as “weird”: normal proteins somehow become disfigured, accumulate in the brain and destroy it.

When science first started paying attention to TSEs in the 1950s, there was only one: scrapie, and people didn’t know much about it except it struck sheep in England. That’s where Bill Hadlow comes in. Hadlow, a retired Rocky Mountain Labs scientist, was the first person to draw a link between scrapie, a hitherto innocuous brain-wasting sheep disease, and kuru, a neurological disorder that was killing hundreds of cannibals in New Guinea in the 1950s.

Thin and gray-haired, Hadlow keeps an impeccable house a block from the Hamilton lab where he worked for more than 40 years. He started researching scrapie in 1958 at a veterinary lab in Compton, England. That was decades before the words “transmissible spongiform encephalopathies” were on anyone’s lips and almost 40 years before any person had ever contracted brain disease from eating contaminated meat. But scrapie was nothing new, even then, he said. It had been around in English sheep and goats since at least the 1700s, although it was not known to spread to people, and sick animals were routinely sold to slaughterhouses.

“It was a strange disease,” Hadlow said. “There was great uncertainty about its actual cause.”

It was in England that Hadlow happened upon a presentation on the wasted brains of New Guinea tribal women and children. The presenter – American pediatrician and future Nobel prize winner Carleton Gajdusek – couldn’t possibly know, Hadlow said, that the disease vexing epidemiologists in the South Pacific caused the same kind of brain wasting as an English barnyard mystery.

But Hadlow instantly saw the connection and in 1959 sent a letter to the editor of the British medical journal Lancet, suggesting that scrapie and kuru might be cousins in a new family of disease.

“That’s given rise to this whole thing,” he said.

Hadlow returned to Rocky Mountain Labs in 1961 and a few months later, scientists there inoculated mice with scrapie, beginning a research program into TSEs that continues to this day.

Since then, Hadlow and other scientists have found other naturally occurring brain-wasting diseases in house cats, mink, deer, elk and, most notably, cows and people. They have shown that these diseases can be spread to many other animals. They have found the diseases are also typified by clutters of certain kinds of disfigured, naturally occurring proteins which seem to do the most damage in the brain, but are present in other parts of infected animals, too.

What’s more, they found the body – human and animal – makes lots and lots of this protein for reasons that are not entirely clear. It is a protein that when not twisted with infection causes no problems and must have some biological function.

Today, mainstream science believes that these twisted proteins, called prions, are not just a symptoms of all TSEs; they actually cause the infections.

When Stanley Prusiner, a Nobel laureate, first published that idea it was so nontraditional, many dismissed it. And for seemingly good reason: Proteins are chemicals. Chemicals are not infectious. To say that a disfigured protein can teach other proteins to disfigure themselves is like saying that a green rock tossed in a box of blue rocks can make the blue rocks change color.

But the prion theory did explain many elements of the disease and today is so dominant, scientists like Chesebro and Hadlow find themselves on the sidelines by pointing out that TSEs could just as easily be caused by something else.

Chesebro thinks an unknown but widespread virus might be behind TSEs, with the host’s own genetics playing a strong supporting role. While everyone may have this virus, only a small percentage of people have the genetic susceptibility to get sick from it.

He has reasons to question the prion theory.

Some of the evidence initially supporting it has been questioned in recent years. When Prusiner first published the idea, one of things that seemed to support it was the fact that whatever caused TSEs could not be killed using any of the known methods that easily kill other viruses, like extreme heat. But today, Chesebro said, researchers at Montana State University in Bozeman have shown that some viruses live quite nicely in the sizzling hot pools of Yellowstone National Park – an environment that would kill any “normal” virus.

“The idea of what it takes to kill a virus is different than it used to be,” he said.

Plus, Priola said, the prion hypothesis cannot explain why there are different strains of some TSE diseases.

“That’s the most compelling point,” she said.

A protein has no genetic material; it’s not alive like a virus. It is a substance, like water is a substance. Just like water is always water, she said, a protein is always a protein. How can one protein cause different shades of the same disease? A virus, on the other hand, can have different genetic variations. That means there are different strains of one virus that can cause the same disease, like different strains of the flu.

Scientists can also make normal proteins change into twisted proteins in the lab – but so far they haven’t been able to show that those proteins can cause infections, Chesebro said.

Chesebro said he’s not advocating his theory over any other. But he said that all possible explanations of these diseases should be aggressively researched.

While many details of TSEs are still unknown – a situation Hadlow laments – symptoms of the disease are something science does know quite a bit about. In people, the symptoms are devastating: depression, dementia, hallucinations, staggered walking, uncontrollable body movements, a vegetative state, death.

Many TSEs are associated with eating the rendered remains of other sick animals. Cattle catch mad cow disease from eating bone meal processed from dead cows. Gajdusek and others eventually figured out that the cannibals dying from kuru in New Guinea got the disease from eating infected corpses. When cannibalism ceased, so, too, did kuru.

But TSEs haven’t given up all their secrets: scientists still don’t know how sheep get scrapie or how deer and elk get chronic wasting disease.

More recently, Priola discovered that certain compounds can arrest the progression of TSE diseases if taken early enough. It’s bittersweet knowledge, though, she said. TSEs generally don’t produce any symptoms until they have practically killed their host and, by then, nothing can stop it.

One thing everyone agrees on, Chesebro said, is that you don’t have to know everything about a disease to know how to prevent it.

Cattle should not eat other cattle, he said. Deer and elk should not be artificially confined because confined animals get chronic wasting more easily.

And the research should go on – hence, the monkeys.

In order to see if chronic wasting disease can spread to humans, researchers injected the disease into the brains of monkeys. TSEs generally take a long time to produce symptoms, so Chesebro and his colleagues have a long time to wait and chip away at the riddle of TSEs.

“Rocky Mountain Labs is pretty well supported to do basic research,” he said. “A lot of basic research is needed to answer these basic questions.”

No Trace of CWD Found in Deer, Elk Samples

HELENA — None of the more than 1,000 samples of deer and elk tissue so far tested this fall for the deadly chronic wasting disease came back positive, wildlife officials say.

Hunters submitted some 1,600 samples of deer and elk tissue this past hunting season, said Ron Aasheim of the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department. So far, 1,030 have been processed, and all have come back negative. The rest are still being processed.

‘‘It’s certainly good news,” he said. ‘‘But as we’ve said in the past, we certainly expect that at some point, we’re going to find (chronic wasting disease) in Montana. It surrounds us on three sides.”

Chronic wasting is a mysterious brain-wasting disease of deer and elk similar to scrapie in sheep and ‘‘mad cow disease” or bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cows. The infectious disease is related to an inexplicably malformed brain protein, not a bacteria or virus. Once confined to pockets of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, the disease is now widespread across much of the West and Midwest. Close to home, the disease has been found in Canadian provinces bordering Montana, in Wyoming and South Dakota. It has not been found in North Dakota and Idaho.

Chronic wasting has never been found in the wild in Montana, but animals at a game farm near Philipsburg did turn up with the disease in 1999. In 1998, the state started a surveillance program to look for the disease more closely, Aasheim said.

Hunters are asked to leave deer and elk heads at game stations and drop buckets around the state so workers can prepare samples of the tissue to be sent to an out-of-state lab for testing. Aasheim said he didn’t know exactly how the deer and elk heads were ultimately disposed of.

This year, samples came from all parts of the state, but officials tried to get more samples in the areas where the disease is most likely to show up: along borders with states or provinces known to have the disease and around Philipsburg, where the disease was found before.

Craig Sharpe, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation, said he was glad to see the disease has so far left Montana alone. Sharpe attributed the lack of chronic wasting to several factors, including a 2000 voter-passed initiative that banned new game farms, and the expansion of existing game farms, as well as fees for shooting penned deer and elk. Sharpe also praised the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department for its ‘‘progressive” stance on the disease.

‘‘We’re lucky in many regards,” Sharpe said. ‘‘It confirms for us that the regulations put in place on game farms was a wise move,”

Like Aasheim, Sharpe said he believes ‘‘it’s a matter of when” the disease shows up here, particularly along Montana’s border with Canada where a number of game farms with infected animals in the past are located.

Although Sharpe said the state is ‘‘doing just about everything we can to prevent the disease from coming to Montana,” he questioned why the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission killed a proposed rule that would limit the import of deer and elk carcasses and other body parts from states that have the disease.

The state of North Dakota has a similar ban.

‘‘We think that is one more step the agency should consider,” he said.

Early Results Fail to Detect CWD in Montana

Early results from a portion of the 1,055 wild deer and elk submitted for chronic wasting disease testing this hunting season show that none of the animals were infected by the fatal ailment, state wildlife officials said today.

The tissue-samples from deer and elk harvested by hunters this season, or collected by FWP, were sent Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo. for analysis. Results from the first 457 samples tested to date are negative for CWD.

While the early testing indicates Montana’s wild deer and elk herds are in good health, Neil Anderson, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks lab biologist, said the agency will continue its intensive testing through the fall hunting season. He said the agency hopes to collect tissue samples from 2,000 more deer and elk this year, with sample collection focusing on high-risk areas along Montana’s northeastern, eastern and southeastern borders.

CWD is a rare brain disease that causes infected deer and elk to lose weight eventually resulting in death of the animal. Public health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have found no link between CWD in deer and elk and disease in humans and say there is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to humans. Scientific studies, however, are still in progress to determine if CWD poses any risk to human health or to domestic livestock.

CWD has turned up in wild deer in the bordering states or provinces of South Dakota, Wyoming and Saskatchewan. FWP has tested more than 2,900 wild deer and elk for CWD since 1996, most intensively in high-risk areas along Montana’s northeastern, eastern and southeastern borders. Intensive sampling has also been continued in the Philipsburg area, near the alternative livestock facility where CWD was detected in a captive elk in 1999.

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