Tags sold out quickly Monday morning for a special deer hunt to learn how far chronic wasting disease has spread in Montana.
“So we had 600 licenses available for whitetail and 600 for mule deer and all 1,200 total sold out just a little after 8:00,” Greg Lemon with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says.
The hunt, which begins this Friday and lasts until February 15th, follows the first finding of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, among wild deer in Montana this fall. Lemon says every animal killed during the special hunt must be sampled for the disease within 72 hours. Results can be expected two weeks later.
“So if the animal tests negative for CWD, it’s fine to eat. If it tests positive, then hunters can dispose of the animal and the carcass,” he says.
Hunters who shoot CWD-positive deer during the special hunt will be given a replacement tag to take another deer -- but only during that hunt. Whole carcasses, heads, and spinal columns won't be allowed outside the designated area in order to prevent the disease’s spread.
Lemon says the hunt will help them figure out how many deer are infected with CWD. That will help the state prepare a long-term management strategy aided with ample public input.
“So whether that’s liberalizing seasons and tags or re-doing season structure in certain hunting districts, that will all be something that the public has ample opportunity to comment on,” he says.
The hunt’s zone spans more than 1,200 square miles south of Laurel where this fall FWP officials found six cases of chronic wasting disease. Another CWD-infected deer was found in the northern part of the state but Lemon says there are currently no plans for a hunt there.