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CWD Hunt Aims To Inform FWP Disease Management Strategies

White-tailed deer.
White-tailed deer.

Hundreds of white-tailed deer tags for a special chronic wasting disease (CWD) hunt near Libby sold out in about two hours Monday. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says the hunt will help managers understand the prevalence of the disease and reduce its spread.

The 600 tags were sold shortly after 10 a.m. at select retailers and online.

FWP Spokesperson Dillon Tabish says every deer harvested in the CWD hunt near Libby this fall will be tested for the deadly disease, which was detected for the first time in western Montana earlier this year.

"That will help inform management strategies, but it will also help contain the spread of CWD as best we can by just reducing those deer numbers a little bit."

The hunt isn’t intended to eradicate CWD in the management zone, which encompasses the 10-mile radius around Libby, but it could help managers understand CWD’s prevalence. Five white-tails have tested positive so far.

Tabish says the state has conducted CWD hunts since the disease was first detected in the state back in 2017. Tabish says the practice has been successful.

"Our management plan, which was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission, is based on the best available science out there, and I think involves the best strategies for containing chronic wasting disease as best we can."

The hunt in Libby will take place during archery and general rifle season. All hunters near Libby are required to document the exact location of their kill and to bring the carcasses or the head of the animal to a sampling station within three days of harvest.

FWP is encouraging hunters to bring carcasses to the Lincoln County Landfill, but all remains are prohibited from leaving the Libby CWD management zone. Tabish says hunters will be able to obtain test results from their deer online.

"And Center for Disease Control recommend not eating deer if its positive."

FWP will also be hosting a series of informational meetings on CWD throughout northwest Montana leading into the start of the hunting season in September.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.