Montana: Second Free-Ranging Case of Chronic Wasting Disease Suspected

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator

On June 14, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) issued a release notifying the public that a second white-tailed deer inside Libby city limits was exhibiting signs of chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal disease of increasing concern for wildlife managers across North America.

In accordance with the Montana’s CWD Response Plan, an Incident Command Team was formed after the first confirmed detection of CWD. The Incident Command Team presented information about the incident to city, county, and state leaders in Libby on June 3, and to the public on June 11. Additionally, every resident/landowner within 20 miles of Libby received a letter regarding the detection and potential management actions.

Moving forward, further information is needed to determine the geographic distribution and prevalence of the disease in the local deer herd. This will require FWP and the City of Libby to sample at least 200 animals within a 10-mile radius of the site of the initial CWD cases. To obtain these samples, FWP will be sampling deer removed by agency staff and hunter-harvested deer, elk, and moose within the 10-mile radius. Additional samples will also be collected from road-kill incidents of the same species.

In addition to state and local efforts to control CWD in the Libby area and across the nation, multiple pieces of federal legislation are being deliberated in the current Congress regarding CWD. The objectives of these bills are to increase federal funding to manage and control the spread of CWD, as well as increase research regarding CWD disease transmission.  Specifically, if passed, the CWD Management Act (H.R. 1550, S. 689), sponsored by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) members Congressman Ron Kind (WI) and Senator Jon Tester (MT), appropriates $35 million for the Secretary of Agriculture to support state and tribal efforts to manage and control the spread of CWD, and an additional $35 million to applied research. 

Additionally, the Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act (H.R. 837, S. 382), sponsored by CSC members Congressman Ralph Abraham (LA) and Senator John Barrasso (WY), directs the Secretaries of Agriculture and the Interior to work through the National Academy of Sciences to fill knowledge gaps pertaining to CWD transmission, such as pathways, mechanisms of spread, infection rates, frequency and prevalence. If enacted, these bills would help to fund and facilitate efforts made at the state and local level, such as the current effort in Montana, to manage confirmed CWD zones and to prevent the spread of the disease into new areas.

On June 21, CSF, along with 38 other sporting-conservation organizations representing millions of hunters, and other wildlife conservationists and professionals, submitted a letter requesting the House Natural Resource Committee to advance H.R. 837 and H.R. 1550 to the House floor for further action.

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