On September 11, 2001 I was driving to bowhunt in SW Montana when news came over the radio about the planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York. After several phone calls to my wife we decided I would go ahead and hunt. The next day I ran into a bowhunter from New York state. He hadn’t been listening to the radio, I told him he needed to call home! At the same time some friends had been drop camped to hunt caribou in Alaska. One mentioned to the others “Have you noticed there are no planes flying?” That is highly unusual in Alaska, they hadn’t rented a Sat Phone so they had no idea all planes had been grounded. Their outfitter tried to sneak out and get them, he was intercepted by two Air Force F-16s who indicated he needed to land NOW. It was several days before planes could retrieve hunters, even then commercial flights were still grounded so they ended up buying a pickup and driving home nonstop. 9/11 was a Game Changer.
Now another Game Changer has hit in the form of CWD in Lincoln County. CWD is no longer just something happening over east of the mountains, it is on our doorstep. It’s just a matter of time until it works its way east to areas we hunt. There is no drug or vaccine for CWD, currently the only strategy is to dramatically reduce game populations in infected areas. That reduces the chance for animal to animal contact and pressure for animals to outmigrate. That means lower game numbers in infected areas, both through CWD mortality and increased harvest. CWD also hits bucks and bulls harder so that could change game management strategies. FWP established a CWD Management Area around Libby and put out 600 whitetail doe B tags, they sold out in 2 hours. The hope is to harvest and test 200 whitetails to determine the prevalence and distribution of CWD. To date CWD has been found in 7 out of about 117 animals near Libby but those were high-probability animals, visibly ill or road kills.
Other game changers, hunters will be allowed to remove only boned meat and clean skull plates from CWD areas, not carcasses. It is always a good idea to wear gloves when butchering and to avoid contact with spinal fluids. Hunters everywhere need to stop dumping butchered carcasses and scraps in the woods, everything should go to landfills. Dumping an infected carcass from elsewhere is the most likely way CWD got to Libby. Don’t shoot an obviously ill animal, report it to FWP.
CWD has not been shown to infect humans but it is recommended to not eat infected meat. Instead, dump them in landfills and apply for a replacement tag if the season is still open. FWP will test animals taken in CWD areas but outside that you will need to pay yourself if desired. Tests currently cost $17.50 per animal. That doesn’t pencil out when deer licenses only cost $16 so FWP is losing money needed for management. But testing takes up to 2 weeks so you may have already butchered your game.
Prions aren’t alive so they can’t be killed in conventional ways. Bleach doesn’t touch them, it takes 1300 degrees heat, a little higher than I usually BBQ. You can bleach and rinse equipment but there’s no way to know they’re completely clean if you’ve gutted an infected animal. CWD is a Game Changer.
The preceding comments are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect policies of Flathead Wildlife, Inc.