The number of white-tailed deer infected with Chronic Wasting Disease continues to climb in Libby. Eighteen white-tailed deer have now tested positive since the count started this spring.
Hunter-harvested deer are expected to shed more light on the spread of the disease when general rifle season starts later this month.
The fatal disease can lead to widespread deaths in deer and elk herds. The number of infected deer in Libby has grown over the last year.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Spokesperson Dillon Tabish says a new batch of mostly white-tailed deer samples were shipped off to Colorado State University late last month.
"We submitted another batch of samples from a variety of sources, including hunter harvest, roadkill, symptomatic, trapping and of that batch sent on Sept. 26, we had seven new suspect positives in the Libby area."
Those samples will be tested again to confirm, but false-positives are unlikely, meaning the total number of confirmed white-tails with CWD has likely jumped to 18. State wildlife officials are requiring hunters around Libby to get their animals tested. FWP plans to sample at least 200 hunter-harvested deer this fall.
"We’re still in archery season now and we’ve had 29 white-tailed deer tested and samples during the archery season. We expect that number to increase dramatically with the general rifle season starting here Oct. 26."
Officials also hope to trap an additional 200 deer in Libby, where the disease has primarily been found. So far, FWP has baited just eight white-tails into its traps, but the agency may wait until this winter to ramp up those efforts when there are fewer food sources around.
Just a handful of elk and moose have been sampled. None have tested positive, but the disease has been known to jump species barriers.
FWP doesn’t expect to have a good grasp on the diseases’ prevalence in the area until early 2020.