Chronic wasting disease test sites open in north-central Montana

Hunter with deer
Posted at 10:13 AM, Oct 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-28 12:13:44-04

GREAT FALLS — There are hunters around the state of Montana trying to get their tags filled. What they may not know is that their harvest could be at risk for disease. Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Park is testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Officials are recommending that hunters go to check their harvests for chronic wasting disease.

It's been in Montana since 2017 and will kill an animal if unchecked within several years. It can affect deer, elk, and moose. Symptoms include loss of hair, weight, and drooped ears.

"It's 100% mortality. Once a deer gets that prion into their system, they will die within two years,” CWD Region 4 manager Joshua Schatz said. “So we fully encourage hunters to come down and when they get their harvest to bring it to us, we'll get it tested. We take the same stance as the CDC and the W.H.O., where we do not encourage or recommend anyone eat it if it's positive."

The testing station in Great Falls has received more than 40 samples from just the first weekend of hunting. The state got more than 600. Great Falls has not seen the disease since it was first found in the state five years ago, as it is mostly found on the Canadian and Wyoming borders.

"Protein that causes this disease can really persist for years,” FWP communication manager Dave Hagengruber said. “So what we want is to make sure that those end up in a landfill. If the proteins are on the ground and another deer walks over or an elk or anything else, they could contract the disease just that way. So what we're trying to do is to get hunters to help not spread the disease and then assist with the surveillance and getting harvests tested."

Here are the CWD sampling stations in Region 4:

  • Belt    Located at pull-out at the intersection of Highwood Rd. and State Highway 331, 9 miles north of Belt;   Open Saturday & Sunday, 10am – Sunset  
  • Chester   Located at Lions Park Rest Area;   Open Saturday & Sunday, 10am – sunset   
  • Fort Benton   Located at pull-out 1 mile west of Fort Benton at the intersection of State Highway 386 and US Highway 87;   Open Mondays 9am - 2pm; Fridays 1pm – Sunset;   
  • Grass Range   Located at pull-out 1/2 mile west of the intersection of US-87/ HWY 200 and HWY 19;   Open Saturdays & Sundays 10am - Sunset; Mondays 9am - 1pm; Fridays 12pm – Sunset (closed Nov 11)
  • Shelby   Located at I-15 Southbound Weigh Station, 3 miles north of Shelby;   Open Saturday - Monday, 10am - 1 hour past dark
  • Great Falls   Located at FWP Region 4 Office 4600 Giant Spring Road

Testing is open and free of charge. FWP estimates about three weeks for results on harvests.

In addition, if your harvest tests positive, they say you'll have an option to surrender your carcass and be issued a new tag for either this season or next season. Click here for more information on the FWP website.