HELENA – With rifle season opening next week Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is ramping up their chronic wasting disease surveillance program.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system of deer, elk and moose.

Similar to mad cow disease, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, affected animals experience drastic weight loss, listlessness and behavioral changes. The disease is fatal to animals and there are no treatments or vaccines.

Due to a decrease is national funding for CWD surveillance the current state’s plan calls for rotating surveillance efforts amongst south-central, north-central/east and south-east areas.

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South-central priority area will be this year’s focus.

To help with this year’s CWD surveillance the Mule Deer Foundation donated $5,000 and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation donated $10,000.

FWP surveillance efforts depend on receiving animal samples from game check stations and cooperating meat processors and taxidermists.

CWD has yet to be found in Montana’s wild deer, elk and moose populations but FWP says it’s only a matter of time before it is discovered in the state.

“Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in Wyoming fairly close to Montana’s border [only] eight miles away,” said FWP Information Bureau Chief  Greg Lemon. “What we want to do is find out if it’s here and then be active in managing it so that we can protect our deer and elk herds.”

Lemon added that early detection is key to the management of CWD and protecting Montana’s wildlife.

FWP is also asking people who get salvage permits for roadkill deer in specific counties to voluntarily submit their heads for testing.

Those counties are: Sheridan, Treasure, Daniels, Valley, Toole, Phillips, Liberty, Blaine, Hill, Custer, Rosebud, Musselshell, Golden Valley, Yellowstone, Carter, Sweet Grass, Park, Stillwater, Big Horn, Powder River, Carbon, Granite and Roosevelt.

There has been no evidence showing that CWD is transmissible to humans but FWP recommends to never ingest meat from any animal that appears to be sick.

For more information about CWD and the reporting process click HERE.

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