Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials are seeking public comment on management decisions that might be necessary should chronic wasting disease be discovered in the state’s wild deer and elk herds. CWD, a fatal brain disease in deer and elk, has not yet been found in the wild herds in Montana.

“We’ve prepared an environmental assessment to help identify the choices the agency would have to make should CWD be discovered in Montana’s wild deer or elk herds,” said Tim Feldner, FWP’s CWD plan coordinator. “Now it is time for the public to take a look at those potential actions and let us know which they think would be the most acceptable and effective.”

CWD has been detected in Wyoming, South Dakota, Utah, Colorado and Saskatchewan, among other states and provinces. 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 12 states and two provinces.

Since 1998, FWP has tested more than 7,000 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 game farm licenses, ends new licensing, and forbids shooting captive elk.

“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.”

Feldner said the CWD environmental assessment describes actions the agency might take if CWD is identified, the impact on wildlife populations and the related economic, agricultural, environmental and social issues. The plan makes recommendations on prevention, surveillance, management, public information and research. Management alternatives include reducing the number of deer or elk in the area where the disease is identified to reduce or stop its spread.

A series of public meetings to discuss the environmental assessment will held from 7-9 p.m. at the following FWP regional offices:

  • Aug. 16 – Missoula – 3201 Spurgin Rd.
  • Aug. 23 – Bozeman – 1400 South 19th
  • Aug. 25 – Great Falls – 4600 Giant Springs Rd.
  • Sept. 1 – Kalispell – 490 N. Meridian Rd.
  • Sept. 13 – Billings – 2300 Lake Elmo Dr.
  • Sept. 14 – Miles City – Industrial Site W
  • Sept. 15 – Glasgow – Rural Route 1-4210

Copies of the CWD environmental assessment are available at FWP regional and the headquarters office, on the FWP web site, under Public Notices, Chronic Wasting Disease Mgmt Plan-EA, or by calling 406-444-2452.

The public may comment on the EA during the public meetings, or until Sept. 23 by email to [email protected] . Those reviewing the document on the FWP web site may email comments from there, or comment by mail to: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Attn: Chronic Wasting Disease EA, 1420 East Sixth Ave., P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.