I haven’t posted about CWD for some time. This article in the Montana Free Press prompted me to write a brief update.
In my home state of Montana, where CWD was first documented in 2017, the disease has now been found in white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose. CWD, which largely affects Montana’s deer so far, has infected cervids in 17% of Montana’s hunting units statewide and at least two of the seven Indian reservations within Montana’s borders. Most cases occur in the northern tier and the southern tier of the state, suggesting spread from heavily-infected Wyoming to the south and Saskatchewan and Alberta to the north.
This spread across Montana has occurred in just 4 years, suggesting that if surveillance and testing are adequate to discover the disease’s distribution, CWD can move aggressively across the landscape. Just as scary, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ officials report that prevalence has reached 24% of tested animals in some places in white-tailed deer. Because CWD is 100% fatal, such infection rates are sufficient to cause population declines.
The article referenced above summarizes what MFWP and hunters can do to limit the spread and amplification of the disease in the state’s wildlife.
Across North America, CWD has infected deer in 26 states and 3 Canadian provinces to date.