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The Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department was notified by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) that a tribal hunter harvested a whitetail deer from the Meriwether Road area on Nov. 11, which tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The tribal hunter had voluntarily provided a sample to MFWP for CWD testing in Bozeman. 

CWD is a fatal neurologic disease of moose, elk, whitetail deer, mule deer and caribou for which there is no known cure. It belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE’s), a group that also causes “mad cow disease” in cattle, scrapie in sheep, and Crueutz-Jacob disease in humans. 

The Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department (BFWD) will be working with MFWP, USDA-APHIS, BIA and other agencies to come up with a Blackfeet CWD Management Plan. 

We will use our webpage Blackfeetfishandwildlife.net, the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Facebook page, and local media to inform the general public as information becomes available.

The causative agent in TSEs is an abnormally folded prion protein (referred to as a prion) that causes normal cellular prion proteins found in the body to change to disease-causing forms. Infected animals shed prions in saliva, feces and urine during most of their infection and via bodily tissues and fluids upon death. These prions may remain infectious in the environment for at least two years. CWD causes brain cells to die, ultimately leading to the death of the affected animal. 

The incubation period can be long depending on species and genetic factors. Infected animals look healthy until the end stages of the disease, making them difficult to distinguish from healthy animals. Animals infected with CWD can transmit the disease to other animals during the “silent” incubation period. The disease has spread widely, and the limited number of tools, as well as their effectiveness, impacts the ability to effectively control the disease.

Tribal hunters that harvest moose, elk or deer in the future are encouraged to cut off the head with at least five inches of neck attached and bring it to the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department office if you would like to have it tested for CWD. The specimen needs to be fresh or frozen to provide a viable sample. A specimen should not be brought in that is several days old and starting to decompose. 

There is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hunters harvesting a deer, elk or moose from an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested for CWD prior to consuming the meat, and to not consume the meat if the animal tests positive.

For more detailed information on CWD, please visit the MFWP website: http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/diseasesAndResearch/diseases/chronicWastingDisease/management.html

For information on how to collect a sample from your harvested deer or elk, please view the informative video on the MFWP website:

http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/diseasesAndResearch/diseases/chronicWastingDisease/getYourAnimalSampled.html

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