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Whitetail Deer tests positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) on Blackfeet reservation – 11/27/2020

Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department was notified by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) that a tribal hunter harvested a whitetail deer from the Meriwether Road area, which tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). tribal hunter had voluntarily provided a sample to MFWP for CWD testing in Bozeman.

The standard protocol for CWD testing requires the removal of the two (2) lymph nodes found in the neck. se two lymph nodes are cut in half and one half of each lymph node is put into a separate baggie resulting in two samples from an individual animal. laboratory protocol involves two (2) laboratory tests: the first test is a rapid test and the results of this test only takes a few days to process; if the first test is positive, then the laboratory runs a second test that takes several weeks before you obtain results. If the second test comes back positive, then the animal is confirmed as having CWD.

CWD is an infectious, degenerative disease of cervids (moose, elk, whitetail deer, and mule deer) that causes brain cells to die, ultimately leading to the death of the affected animal. The incubation period can be long depending on species and genetic factors. Infected animals look healthy until the end stages of the disease, making them difficult to distinguish from healthy animals. Animals infected with CWD can transmit the disease to other animals during the “silent” incubation period. The disease has spread widely and the limited number of tools, as well as their effectiveness, impacts the ability to effectively control the disease.

Tribal hunters that harvest moose, elk, or deer in the future are encouraged to cut off the head with at least 5 inches of neck attached and bring it to the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department office if you would like to have it tested for CWD. The specimen needs to be fresh or frozen to provide a viable sample. A specimen should not be brought in that is several days old and starting to decompose. MFWP regional offices stopped accepting heads for sampling at the end of hunting season (11/29/20).

There is no known transmission of CWD to humans. However, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that hunters harvesting a deer, elk, or moose from an area where CWD is known to be present have their animal tested for CWD prior to consuming the meat, and to not consume the meat if the animal tests positive.

The Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department (BFWD) will be working with MFWP, USDA-APHIS, BIA, and other professionals to come up with a CWD management strategy. We will use our webpage, the Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Facebook page, and local media to inform the general public as information becomes available.

For more detailed information on CWD, please visit the MFWP website:

For information on how to collect a sample from your harvested deer or elk, please view the informative video on the MFWP website: