Every year hunters across Montana donate thousands of pounds of wild game to local food banks through local meat processors. With the discovery of chronic wasting disease in Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks is urging hunters to have their deer, elk and moose tested and have a negative test result in hand prior to donating no matter where in Montana these animals are harvested.
“We know this will be a shift for both hunters and processors, but with a little planning ahead, it should still be a smooth process of getting healthy wild game from the field to the homes of foodbank customers,” said Ken McDonald, Wildlife Division Administrator with FWP.
The funding for much of this donated meat comes from hunters through a program called Hunters Against Hunger. Hunters are asked to donate to the program when they purchase their license each year. The donations go to offset the cost of processing the wild game.
Donations to Hunters Against Hunger and other donation options are welcome anytime and can be done online at fwp.mt.gov or at any license provider.
Each year more than 50,000 pounds of wild game are donated to food banks across the state.
In 2017, CWD was discovered in deer in southcentral Montana. Since then, the disease has been found in multiple locations across the state.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease infecting deer, elk and moose. It is not known to infect humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control advise against consuming meat from CWD positive animals. The CDC also recommends testing animals harvested in CWD positive areas prior to consumption.
Testing for CWD involves removing lymph nodes in the neck, just below the jaw. Hunters can have their deer, elk and moose tested for CWD in a few ways. They can take the samples themselves and submit them to the FWP Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman. Instructions can be found online at fwp.mt.gov/cwd/getyouranimalsampled. Or they can bring the animal’s head with a few inches of neck meat attached to an FWP regional office or CWD sampling station and FWP staff can take the sample. The samples will be submitted to the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. Results should be available within three weeks and posted online at fwp.mt.gov. Hours of operation and locations of CWD sampling locations will also be posted online.
Due to the COVID pandemic, staff presence in FWP offices can vary as many continue to work remotely. To have a sample taken at a regional office, please call ahead so that FWP can ensure the visit is timely, quick, and smooth. Also, please come prepared to wear a mask, as required by Gov. Steve Bullock’s directives, should social distancing be difficult to achieve. FWP staff will be wearing a mask as well.
For more information about CWD and for instructions and a video on collecting and submitting samples, visit fwp.mt.gov/cwd.