Montana's first suspected case of CWD in a wild elk killed near Red Lodge was recorded Monday, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
In addition, three deer killed in south-central Montana also tested positive for the disease Monday. They included a mule deer taken on national forest land near Crooked Creek in the Pryor Mountains, a white-tailed deer killed northwest of Worden and a white-tailed deer killed on private land northeast of Silesia.
CWD, or chronic wasting disease, is an always fatal disease that affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose. Transmission can most commonly occur through direct contact between animals, including urine, feces, saliva, blood and antler velvet. Carcasses of infected animals may serve as a source of environmental contamination as well and can infect other animals that come into contact with that carcass. The disease was first discovered in the wild in Montana in a deer south of Billings in 2017.
Samples from the deer and elk will undergo additional testing to confirm the results.
The sickened cow elk was harvested by a landowner northeast of Red Lodge earlier this month. CWD was previously found in a herd of captive game-farm elk in Philipsburg in 1999.
There is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hunters harvesting an animal in an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested. The animal’s head and throat area are required for testing purposes. If the animal tests positive, CDC advises against eating the meat.
The 2019 general hunting season ends on Sunday, Dec. 1. South central Montana hunters wanting to have their animals tested for CWD may collect the samples themselves and mail them using instructions posted online at http://fwp.mt.gov/cwd .