Chronic Wasting Disease is a terrible disease that threatens wildlife. CWD is a huge problem for Deer, moose, and Elk. Other critters are vulnerable as well.
CWD is always fatal, once a critter is infected. Carcasses can transmit the disease for over 2 years! Fortunately, the disease has not infected humans. The FWP recommends that people do not eat CWD contaminated meat.
CWD Testing Stations have been set up throughout the state especially in areas where contamination has showed up. Hunters will be required to wear masks at the stations due to Covid-19 concerns. Data gathered from these stations will help plan future management strategy.
State Law requires ALL hunters to stop at all checkpoints, even if they have no game. Proper disposal of carcasses is important. Wearing latex gloves, when field dressing, removing heads, cutting bone, and gutting, are always a healthy idea.
This disease affects the nervous system. Inspect your target before pulling the trigger. Is the critter showing signs of distress, wobbling, limping, or unusual behavior? Pick your targets carefully.
CWD was first discovered in Montana in 2017. It is now too common throughout the state. Original cases were linked to escaped, infected animals from Game Farms. A game animal can carry the disease for years without showing symptoms.
The rules for carcass care are complicated. It is recommended that hunters dispose of all carcasses in a landfill. This includes the brain, eyes, spleen, lymph glands, and spinal material. It is also stated that if you leave these parts afield, they need to be buried under 16-24 inches of soil. No hunters that I know, carry a shovel. Covering an elk or moose carcass is a HUGE challenge.
My guess is that the real issue is preventing Ditch Dumping of carcasses that could infect local critters and pets. This illegal and unethical practice is a quick way to spread the disease. In the regulations it does also state that “carcasses that have been quartered can be left at kill sites on public or private land with landowner permission.”
CWD is spread from fluid contamination. Nose to nose contact, brain and spinal fluid, lymph glands, spleen, and eyes have been identified as key vectors for infection. In states where baiting is allowed, or when locals feed wildlife in their yards, superspreading can occur as animals group up when feeding on the bait, corn, or feed.
Hunters can get their game checked locally, for contamination. Check with your local FWP offices for information and procedures. It is recommended that no Big Game meat is consumed until it has been confirmed healthy. It would be good idea for Meat Processors to involved in this process, but currently, that is not the case.
Sadly, the future of hunting could be at risk. CWD, along with Brucellosis could become triggers for decisions made about future hunting.