The first suspected case of chronic wasting disease in a free ranging elk in Montana has been discovered.
According to Montana officials with the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks department, the state's first suspected case of chronic wasting disease has been found in a wild elk.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that a cow elk killed on private land northeast of Red Lodge in early November tested positive for exposure to the disease. Further tests will be conducted, but Bob Gibson, a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman, stated that false positive tests were rare.
"This is bad," said Nick Gevock, conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation. "This is really bad."
Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Wild Montana Elk
Since elk tend to congregate in groups, the findings are of particular concern. CWD affects whitetail deer, mule deer, moose, and elk and attacks their nervous system. It's an always-fatal disease and is most prominently spread through contact between individual infected cervids.
This first case of CWD in a wild elk could impact the wider defense efforts in place to stop the spread and find a cure. Montana has already regulated the movement of deer and elk parts between counties with and without the presence of the disease, and take tissue samples at special check stations throughout the state.
Fish, Wildlife, and Parks has also liberalized the hunting season harvest allotments in an effort to thin the herds in specific CWD management zones.
Meanwhile, three new cases of the disease in deer from south central Montana were reported in the week following the wild elk's test.
Though no one can be sure how and when it arrived for the first time inside Montana's borders, the state saw its initial positive case of CWD some 20 years ago, in a game farm elk.
Since then, a new hunting season has almost always meant new positive test results, as CWD continues to grip the deer populations of the western states and beyond.