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.