Chronic wasting disease found in deer near Chester

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A whitetail buck pauses in the forest in Glacier National Park.

A mule deer buck shot by a hunter Nov. 12 north of Chester near the Canadian border has tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

The deer was taken in hunting district 401 in Liberty County.

The test results mark the fifth incident of the disease discovered in Montana wild deer this fall. The other four deer came from south of Billings. Until this year, chronic wasting disease had not been found in Montana, though the disease exists in wild deer herds in Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

In anticipation of the disease coming to Montana, wildlife officials recently updated its chronic wasting disease response plan, and FWP director Martha Williams has assembled an incident command team to respond to the detection near Billings. Fish, Wildlife and Parks is in the process of putting together a team for the latest detection north of Chester.

An incident command team will define an initial response area around where the infected animal was harvested, and may recommend a special hunt. The specifics of this hunt would be determined by the incident command team.

The state wildlife agency is currently organizing a hunt to respond to the detections in south central Montana. This hunt will come before the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission at their meeting Thursday in Helena for final approval.

It has not been determined yet if a special hunt will occur at the site of the latest detection north of Chester. Currently, there is no general deer hunting season open near where the deer was harvested in HD 401.

Chronic wasting disease can only be effectively detected in samples from dead animals. The disease is a progressive, fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.

Though there is no evidence it is transmissible to humans, it is recommended to never ingest meat from animals that appear to be sick or are known to have chronic wasting disease. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends hunters who have harvested a deer, elk, or moose from a known infected area have the animal tested prior to consuming it. If hunters harvest an animal that appears to be sick, the best thing to do is contact FWP and have the animal inspected.

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