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.