Golden boy

Mule deer bucks are more prone to catching chronic wasting disease, so they will be among the animals wildlife officials most want to check for signs of the illness.

BRETT FRENCH, Gazette Staff

A mule deer buck harvested in hunting district 510 is suspected to have chronic wasting disease, making it the second buck in the district harvested within the past two weeks that is believed to carry the disease.

The most recent animal suspected to have CWD was taken about three miles south of Belfry and a second sample from the animal has been sent to a lab at Colorado State University. The initial detection of CWD came at an FWP check station.

Results from the second test are expected next week. The hunter who took the animal has been notified by FWP, according to the release. The area where the animal was harvested is primarily public land. 

Last week a buck harvested 10 miles southeast of Bridger was suspected to have CWD and FWP is awaiting results of a second sample. 

Both animals were taken in areas that are under FWP priority CWD surveillance, and hunters in the area, especially districts 502 and 510, are encouraged to submit their deer, elk and moose for testing with FWP. Testing can be done at a check station or at either the FWP Region 3 office in Bozeman or the FWP Region 5 office in Billings. 

Anyone who believes they have harvested an animal with chronic wasting disease is asked to contact FWP and have the animal tested. The release states that Montana is now a CWD positive state and hunters need to dispose of carcasses in Class II landfill. "Disposing of carcass waste on the landscape is considered littering and it may facilitate the spread of CWD," according to the release.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has formed an incident command team in Region 5 in response. The incident command team is being led by Barb Beck, FWP Region 5 supervisor, and is responsible for keeping the public informed and developing initiatives to control and understand the disease's spread, including a possible CWD hunt later this year to help produce a larger size of samples for testing. FWP is currently collecting samples from hunter-harvested deer in south central Montana hunting districts.

The FWP press release states there is no evidence that CWD is transmittable to humans, but "it is recommended to never ingest meat from animals that appear to be sick or are known to be CWD positive." 

The fatal disease affects the central nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. It could result in long-term population declines within affected herds if it's not managed. 

Becker said CWD symptoms are not visible to the naked eye until the late stages of the disease. A harvested deer may appear to be perfectly healthy, she said. 

Animals with obvious signs of CWD may appear emaciated, have their heads lowered, salivate or walk in circles. More information can be found on the FWP website.

Bucks are of particular interest to FWP in assessing the disease's spread because they are in contact with a large amount of male and female deer, especially during the rut, according to FWP Information Bureau Chief Greg Lemon. CWD can be transmitted between animals through bodily fluids, including mucus and saliva, Lemon said.

Region 5 encompasses a geographically diverse area of south-central Montana, including the Crazy Mountains and the Absaroka Beartooth-Wilderness. 

FWP recommends hunters who have harvested deer, elk or moose in CWD-infected areas to have the animal tested prior to consumption and to take precautions, including wearing rubber gloves and eye protection during field dressing, minimizing the handling of brain and spinal tissue, washing hands and instruments after field dressing and avoiding consuming the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes of harvested animals.

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