FWP plans special deer hunt near Libby, hopes to curb Chronic Wasting Disease

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A whitetail deer pauses up the North Fork last week.

A special hunting season this fall, and a plan to cull deer from the Libby urban area after the season, is Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ latest efforts to curtail the extent of chronic wasting disease affecting deer, elk and moose in Northwest Montana.

More than two dozen people attended a FWP public meeting last week intended to inform the public of the agency’s plans to keep the fatal disease from spreading.

According to FWP Regional Information Manager Dillon Tabish, there will be a special CWD hunt in the Libby area this fall, and 600 B licenses for antlerless white-tailed deer will be sold in the Libby CWD Management Zone, which includes part of Hunting Districts 100, 103 and 104. A map of the zone, a 10-mile radius around Libby, will be finalized by mid-month.

While the additional tags are new, the regulations for dates and weapons restrictions will remain the same. For example, hunters must use archery equipment during that season.

Hunters may buy up to two licenses and they will be available at select locations in the region beginning at 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19. At 10 a.m., the licenses will be for sale online.

“We wanted to do the sale in stores locally so area hunters will have the first choice at getting licenses,” Tabish said. “Typically, licenses for sale online are sold very quickly.”

July 15, the Libby City Council approved authorizing Libby City Police, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Department of Transportation and Montana FWP personnel to harvest and collect deer for testing.

Beginning later this fall, FWP will use traps baited with clover to catch about 200 deer. The deer will then be taken away from the trap sites to other locations to be euthanized with a captive bolt gun, a device used by ranchers on livestock.

Deer taken by hunters and those captured by FWP will be tested for CWD. It affects the nervous system of deer, elk and moose, causing cell death and leading to fatal nerve and brain damage. Common symptoms include the animal keeping its head down and its ears droop.

Tabish said that of the 62 animals tested for CWD in the Libby area, five white-tailed deer have tested positive for the disease.

The bulk of the animals tested were whitetails, 57; four mule deer and one moose were also tested.

People living in the Libby area who see an animal that appears to be sick should call 406-291-6539 or Lincoln County Dispatch. Callers can leave a message with their name, number, location of the animal and when they saw it.

While there is no known transmission of CWD to people, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that hunters who harvest a deer, elk or moose from an area where CWD is known to be present have it tested before eating the meat. If the meat tests positive, it shouldn’t be eaten.

FWP has several meetings planned over the next month. They include:

• Noon, Friday, Aug. 16, Libby, Ponderosa Room, City Hall, 952 East Spruce Street;

• 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 19, Eureka, Glacier Bank, 222 Dewey Avenue;

• 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, Polson, location is to be determined;

• 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, Trout Creek, Lakeside Resort, 2955 Highway 200;

• 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26, Kalispell, Montana FWP Region 1 office, 490 Meridian;

• 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 28, Libby, Ponderosa Room, City Hall, 952 East Spruce Street;

• 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, Kalispell, Montana FWP Region 1 office, in conjunction with Flathead Wildlife Inc. meeting.

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