The following is from FWP Biologist Ryan Rauscher of Conrad:

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking 6 -12 individuals to serve on a chronic wasting disease citizen advisory panel to provide input on the agency’s management plan for the disease.

Chronic wasting disease(CWD) has not yet been found in Montana’s wild populations of deer, elk and moose, but as it continues to expand to the north, south and east of the us, FWP officials believe it is only a matter of time before it is in Montana.

The agency started testing for CWD in 1998 and that effort continues today, with specific attention given to high priority areas in southeast and northern Montana where confirmed cases of CWD are closest to our borders.

FWP began planning its response should the disease be discovered in Montana in the late 1990s as well. The response plan has undergone some recent revisions and continues to be updated in preparation of managing CWD in Montana and as biologists learn from other states as they manage the disease in their wild cervid populations.

“Once CWD is discovered in Montana, it will be critical that our response is swift and adequate,” said John Vore, FWP Game Management Bureau Chief. “It’s also important the public has a good understanding and input into our plan. This committee needs to have broad representation and will be critical to the success of our response to the disease.”

The panel will lend a citizen’s perspective to FWP in reviewing the science and management of CWD, predicting and anticipating public sentiment, and how to inform the public about potential CWD-oriented management actions.

This citizen panel needs to be diverse and ideally will have people from across the state and include wildlife and livestock perspectives, scientific and recreation interests, commerce and tourism, and local and state government representation.  FWP staff will participate in but not formally sit on the citizen panel.  Meetings will be facilitated and be advertised and open to the public with opportunity for public comment.

Participants will review contemporary science, management actions and experience from other states and provinces, and Montana’s current CWD plan and advise FWP on public communications the agency might make.

CWD is a progressive, fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. It is one of a group of diseases called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies. Infectious, abnormal proteins called “prions” accumulate in an animal’s brain, causing a spongy appearance to the tissue visible only under a microscope.

The only documented cases of CWD in Montana were in captive animals at a game farm in Philipsburg in 1998; however, CWD has been detected in free-ranging populations in 22 other states and two Canadian provinces – some detections within a few miles of Montana.  In fact, it has been found in all the states or provinces bordering Montana except Idaho and British Columbia.

In other parts of the country, wildlife management agencies have dealt with CWD for years. In Wyoming officials have seen declines in mule deer herds due to the high prevalence of the disease.

One of the challenges with CWD is that infecting prions stay viable for a long time in animals and in the environment. So as more animals become infected, the environment they inhabit becomes more infected, making control much more difficult.

FWP has compiled more than 17,000 postmortem samples from free-ranging deer, elk and moose – all of which were negative. There is no non-invasive, reliable test for live animals. Unfortunately, federal funding for testing was cut back in 2012, so the agency now limits sampling to high-risk areas or symptomatic animals.

For those interested in participating in the CWD citizen advisory panel, applications can be found online on the FWP home page,, look under Popular for CWD Citizen Advisory Panel.  Application deadline is March 15 and the FWP director will select panelists by March 25.  The first meeting will be April 5-6 at the Bozeman FWP regional office. Interested individuals should be willing to travel for up to six one to two-day meetings in 2017.

For more information contact John Vore at 406-444-3940.

To apply online, click HERE.

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