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Testing Reveals New Chronic Wasting Disease Hotspot In Southwest Montana

White-tailed deer.
White-tailed deer.

Wildlife officials say new data show that the Ruby Valley in southwest Montana has become a hotspot for chronic wasting disease, a disease fatal to deer, elk and moose.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesperson Greg Lemon says this year’s data has shed light on the prevalence of the disease in the Ruby Valley near Sheridan, where CWD showed up in 23 percent of samples.

"That’s pretty significant. That definitely, for us, qualifies as a hotspot."

The Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission last week approved FWP’s request to extend some white-tailed deer hunting seasons through mid-February in an effort to collect more data and to thin out the herds in the Ruby Valley, the only known way to reduce the presence of the disease. The Fish, Wildlife & Parks CWD management plan calls for keeping prevalence below 5 percent in herds with confirmed positives.

As of late last week, Lemon says FWP detected roughly 200 positives, about 3 percent of the 7,300 samples submitted by hunters statewide. 

"And so far we’ve got new positives in five hunting districts."

But Lemon says those districts were all near others where the disease was previously detected.

Lemon says more data is likely to arrive from those extended seasons and additional shoulder seasons around the state, but won’t likely yield any additional management actions this year. 

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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