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 Officials Prepare for Disease

BOZEMAN – It’s just a matter of time before chronic wasting disease infects Montana’s deer and elk herds, and state wildlife officials are preparing for it.

Keith Aune says hunters are asked to call the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department if they see any animals with extreme weakening, excessive salivation and urination or head tremors.

“It’s not that far to Montana from where it is in Wyoming,” said Aune, a wildlife scientist who studies the disease. “You’re going to see the slow move of CWD to Montana. How long it will take, I don’t know,” he told hunters here Wednesday.

Aune said the agency is beginning to fill out the paperwork necessary for an action plan to try to fight or control the disease.

CWD is a fatal and incurable disease that eats holes in brain tissue. It infects elk and mule deer herds at fairly low levels, but Aune said whitetailed deer appear to have little or no resistance to it.

“We want you guys thinking about CWD,” he said. The only method of control so far has been the eradication of entire herds.

CWD has shown up in wild elk and deer herds in Colorado and Wyoming for about 40 years and has been detected in Wisconsin and in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

FWP to Discuss Chronic Wasting Disease at Meetings

Hunters and others interested in chronic wasting disease–a fatal disease of deer and elk that has yet to turn up in any Montana wild game, but that is present in nearby states and Canadian provinces–can offer comments at public meetings set to discuss the 2003 hunting seasons.

During January, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks is hosting 39 meetings to discuss the 2003 deer and elk hunting seasons, spring turkey seasons and quotas, spring black bear quotas and recommended game-damage permit authorizations. In addition, FWP plans to seek the public’s help in identifying issues to address as the wildlife agency develops an action plan to combat CWD should it be found in any of Montana’s wild deer or elk herds.

In a continuing effort to monitor Montana’s wild deer and elk herds for CWD, FWP researchers collected test samples from more than 1,000 deer and elk in 2002. Test results are expected later this winter. Prior to 2002, FWP tested more 1,700 wild deer and elk for CWD and none were positive for the disease.

At the meetings, wildlife biologists will briefly discuss CWD management options. To find a meeting in your area, call your nearest FWP office or check the meeting schedule on FWP’s website at

CWD Test Offers State Rapid Results

Disease can be detected in five hours instead of five days

A new, rapid test for chronic wasting disease will allow Montana to broaden its efforts to detect an infection in wild deer and elk, according to a state wildlife agency official.

And if Montana ever does find CWD in its wild deer or elk, the new test could possibly be used upon the request of hunters to determine if animals they killed were infected, said Keith Aune, supervisor of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Research Laboratory in Bozeman.

However, Aune added that several recent studies found no link between CWD and human health.

Bio-Rad Laboratories of Hercules, Calif., announced last week that its rapid test for CWD has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for use on white-tailed deer, elk and mule deer. The test is currently used in Colorado.

The company says its new test generates results in just five hours, compared to the traditional IHC (immunohistochemistry) method, which can take up to five days. Bio-Rad’s tests will be used only by USDA-authorized labs.

CWD is a one of a family of brain diseases, including mad cow disease, called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies that are always fatal to the infected animal. Scientists believe the malady is caused by mutated proteins called prions.

Bio-Rad’s new tests will allow Montana wildlife managers to do more chronic wasting disease testing and get results faster, Aune said.

There are only 10 USDA-approved labs in the country doing CWD testing, he said. Since the recent discovery of CWD in wild deer in Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, those labs have been overloaded.

In Wisconsin this fall, tens of thousands of hunters complied with requests from state wildlife officials that they provide heads of their harvested deer for CWD testing.

Because chronic wasting disease has not been found in the wild in Montana, Aune said, the state’s requests for CWD tests from USDA labs have been given lower priority than states that have the disease.

This year, he said, FWP collected tissue from more than 1,000 deer and elk killed by hunters to have tested for CWD. Getting results will take about six weeks, because of the backlog at the labs.

Since 1996, Montana has tested more than 1,700 deer and elk from its wild herds, but has never discovered one case of the disease. In addition, more than 1,700 elk from game farms have been tested. The only incidence of CWD in the state was found in elk at a game farm near Philipsburg in 1999. The entire herd was destroyed.

“We probably just dodged a bullet in our Philipsburg situation,” Aune said. “There weren’t a lot of wild animals around the infected game farm. And it was detected early and aggressively tended to.”

Montana’s CWD surveillance efforts have been concentrated in three geographic areas, including the Philipsburg vicinity, where FWP has tested about 500 wild deer and elk since 1999. All tests were negative.

“So we’re feeling pretty confident now about Philipsburg,” Aune said. “But we’ll maintain surveillance in the area.”

The other two areas of the state where FWP is focusing attention are along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, from Havre eastward; and along the Wyoming border, from Big Timber eastward. CWD has been found in the wild in Saskatchewan and Wyoming. Alberta and Saskatchewan also have “had a nightmare” with CWD outbreaks in game farm elk herds, Aune said.

“And of course, any time there’s a sick animal anywhere, we try to take a look at it,” said Aune. “We will continue that, probably, forever.”

In the future, he said, Bio-Rad’s new CWD test may allow FWP to do its own testing on the spot in its targeted high-risk surveillance areas.

Eventually, Aune added, FWP may consider using the test, upon request of hunters, to determine if animals they kill are infected. But that probably would only happen if CWD were found in the wild in Montana, he said.

Recent discoveries of the disease in other states have prompted considerable debate about human health risks associated with CWD.

“Because there has been a degree of uncertainty about the transmission between species,” Aune said, “it’s led people to speculate that it could happen. But in the real world, there is a pretty significant species barrier for transmission of CWD to humans. In addition, there’s a huge cultural barrier. In Montana, hunters don’t eat brains or spinal cords, which is where the prions are concentrated.”

No link between CWD and the human form of the disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, has ever been demonstrated, according to Aune. He cited reports by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and most recently by the Mayo Clinic, that concluded there is no evidence that CWD can be passed to humans.

“It’s incredibly unlikely,” Aune said.

Nevertheless, the World Health Organization advises people not to eat any part of an animal that shows signs of the disease.

FWP already has received some requests from hunters to have their animals checked, according to Aune. The department refers them to laboratories in Colorado and Wyoming that do tests for individuals.

Bio-Rad’s test “will open that possibility for us,” he said.

“But we’re in a state with no known CWD in wildlife,” he added. “And even if it were, there’s no link between CWD and humans, so I question if it would be worth the money. But that’s an individual choice.”

Tips on Sensible Handling of Your Game Meat

Two laboratories will accept elk or deer heads to be tested for chronic wasting disease from hunters in Montana.

The Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory will conduct the tests for $25. Hunters can send a well-wrapped deer or elk head, either well cooled or frozen, to the lab. Test results will be available in eight to 10 working days.

For the proper address and mailing procedures, call (307) 742-6638.

The Colorado State University Diagnostic laboratory also will conduct tests, but asks that hunters send only a portion of the animal’s brain stem or lymph nodes to the lab. It’s recommended that veterinarians prepare the samples to ensure that they’re usable. The tests cost $25, and results will be available within two weeks. For the proper address and mailing procedures, call 970-491-1281.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance ( advises hunters to take some standard precautions when pursuing or handling deer or elk. Those include not shooting, handling or consuming animals that act abnormal or look sick.

People should wear latex or rubber gloves when field dressing their deer or elk. They should bone out the meat from the animal, and avoid sawing through bones or cutting through the brain or spinal cord (backbone).

Handle the brain and spinal tissues minimally, if at all, and do not eat an animal’s brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes. Normal field dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, should remove almost all of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove any remaining lymph nodes.

After field dressing an animal, people should wash their hands and instruments thoroughly. People who have their deer or elk commercially processed should request that their animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from their animal.

Chronic Wasting Disease Raises Testing Concerns

Montana hunters who want to get their harvested elk or deer tested for chronic wasting disease will need to send the heads of their animals, or parts of the lymph nodes and brain stem, to laboratories in Wyoming or Colorado.

Budget constraints have forced the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to close its Silver City game check station, along with others throughout north central and northwestern Montana, where brain samples of harvested game were taken and sent to labs to be checked for CWD.

Testing in Certain Areas

But the closures also are part of a plan in which FWP will concentrate testing for the deadly neurological disease in three key areas that they have deemed high risk. Those include the Drummond/Philipsburg area, where CWD was detected in a game farm in 1999; and near Montana’s border with Wyoming, South Dakota and Saskatchewan.

“In light of finding chronic wasting disease in mule deer in Saskatchewan, and finding it in South Dakota and Wyoming, we are doing more of a border protection program,” said Keith Aune, wildlife laboratory supervisor for Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “We’ll do perimeter monitoring that is coordinated with and tied in with what the other states and provinces are doing. The reason we are selecting those areas is we see them as high risk.”

Risk Slim in State

Montana has never recorded a case of the deadly CWD in wild animals. But chronic wasting disease has been found in the wild in 10 nearby states, including Wyoming, Colorado and South Dakota, as well as in Canada. Although the narrowing of testing locations in Montana for CWD bucks is part of a national trend, Aune says the state actually is ahead of the curve when it comes to testing for CWD. He noted that Montana’s new tactic is an outgrowth of testing began in 1998. That year, hunters voluntarily submitted 617 animals for sampling, with none of the usable samples testing positive for CWD.

“It was a broad sweep across the state,” Aune said.

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