Elk NetworkHelp Identify CWD-Symptomatic Wildlife

Conservation | May 29, 2020

Below is a news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

A follow-up test confirmed a positive case of chronic wasting disease in a white-tailed deer buck that was euthanized in Gallatin County this month after displaying several classic symptoms of the disease.

The deer, which was found in the Springhill area north of Bozeman, represents the first confirmed case of CWD in the county.

CWD was first detected in Montana in 2017. Since then, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has closely monitored the prevalence and distribution of CWD through targeted surveillance and sampling efforts. The disease is now known to exist across southern and northern Montana, as well as in neighboring states and provinces.

FWP is continuing to develop management strategies to minimize potential impacts from the disease. Understanding the prevalence and distribution of CWD is central to that effort. So FWP is asking for the public’s help in identifying deer, elk or moose that are symptomatic of carrying CWD. Please report any symptomatic deer, elk or moose to your local FWP office and provide detailed information on the time and location that the symptomatic animal was observed.

What is CWD?

CWD is a fatal disease affecting the nervous systems of deer, elk and moose. It is caused by an infectious misfolded prion protein, concentrated in an animal’s lymphatic and nervous system tissues. Transmission most commonly occurs through direct contact between animals. Carcasses and bodily fluids of infected animals can also be sources of infection for other cervids that come in contact with them.

Pronghorn antelope and other animals not in the Cervidae (deer) family are not carriers of CWD.

Animals are tested for CWD by removing the retropharyngeal lymph nodes under the lower jaw, which are where much of the infectious protein concentrates.

CWD is not known to be transmissible to humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against consuming animals that have tested positive for CWD.

What symptoms should be reported?

In the terminal stages of CWD, one of the most common symptoms for deer, elk and moose is reduced mobility. Additional symptoms include emaciation, excessive salivation or drooling, lack of muscle coordination, an exaggerated wide posture, and the animal carrying its head and ears lowered.

What should not be reported?

If an animal reacts to a human presence by leaving the area, it should not be reported.

During the springtime, many animals appear skinny as they rebuild fat stores spent during the winter. Body condition alone is not a reliable indicator of whether an animal is symptomatic of carrying CWD. Usually a combination of physical and behavioral symptoms will be present.

What is FWP doing to manage CWD?

Hunting is the primary tool in Montana for gathering CWD samples and managing infected herds. FWP will strategically target areas for surveillance in southwest Montana, including establishing check stations for sample collection. FWP will continue assisting hunters in sample collection and funding the processing of samples.

Potential management actions in Montana’s CWD response plan include increased harvest, targeted removal in limited areas around CWD detections, minimizing large groupings of deer, and carcass transport restrictions or proper disposal of carcass parts.

Several additional measures have been in place to minimize the spread of CWD, including interstate transport restrictions and laws that prohibit feeding wildlife. Liberal deer hunting opportunities also exist in some hunting districts.

FWP plans to continue working closely with the public, elected officials and local leaders in responding to the presence of CWD. Information gathered on the prevalence and distribution of CWD will help inform management decisions going forward.

(Photo source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)