LIVINGSTON, Mont. - Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will coordinate a special hunt after receiving a sample suspect of chronic wasting disease from a deer near Billings. Lead disease technician Zach Mills told NBC Montana the hunt will determine how far the disease has spread and will take place after general hunting season ends.
"After we had that positive detection it kind of kicked into action the preliminary stages of management," Mills said. "So what we'll be seeing in the next few weeks is essentially to make a buffer zone around where that disease was or where that infected animal was identified."
The fatal disease is contagious within herds of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose, according to disease ocologist Emily Almberg. Almberg said CWD affects the animals' central nervous system.
"The disease has the ability or power to be very, very catastrophic to a herd," Mills said. "If it sneaks into the system and becomes prevalent before we detect it, the chances that later it will really wreak havoc or have potentially catastrophic effects are much higher."
According to Montana FWP, CWD could result in large-scale population declines for infected herds.
"If it's something we leave unmanaged, it's possible maybe in my lifetime, or my kid's lifetime, or my grandchild's lifetime, that our herds could be really struggling if we don't get our hands around this disease collectively," Mills said.
While there is no evidence showing CWD can infect humans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend avoiding eating meat from infected animals.
Mills told NBC Montana it typically takes about three weeks for the department to receive results back from the lab at Colorado State University. He advises hunters to wait to process their meat until they receive the results.
If you notice an animal has droopy ears, is drooling, or has poor body condition, you should not shoot the animal as it may have chronic wasting disease, according to Mills.
For your CWD test results, click here.