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Wildlife officials answer rumors of eliminating deer

by SCOTT SHINDLEDECKER
The Western News | July 22, 2022 7:00 AM

It doesn’t come as much of a surprise that with aggressive efforts to reduce Chronic Wasting Disease by killing white-tailed deer in northwest Montana, there were rumors that state wildlife officials were trying to eliminate the animals.

The same rumors can be heard across the country.

“We’re not trying to eradicate deer, we are trying to reduce the prevalence in the population,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1 Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson. “The goal is to limit deer densities because the more animals living in close proximity, the better the odds are for the disease to spread.”

Part of the plan to reduce deer densities is through hunting. Since 2019, when CWD was found in Lincoln County, FWP has offered over-the-counter deer licenses. They sold 600 the first year, 2,142 the second and 2,678 licenses last season.

But, according to Anderson, some local community members became concerned with how many hunters from out of the area they were seeing.

FWP asked the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission to limit the number of licenses, which are only valid within the Libby Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone in Lincoln County

“That’s why we switched from over-the-counter to a B license,” Anderson said. “With it being a B license, no more than 10% of non-residents could get one.”

But the plan hit a bit of a snag when only 436 B licenses, out of 2,000 either-sex licenses available, were sold by the June 1 deadline.

“The rest went into a surplus drawing and those are not limited to non-residents,” Anderson said.

But the surplus license sale ended Wednesday, July 20.

“If any licenses remain, they’ll be available over-the-counter,” Anderson said. “It’ll be another week or so before we know if there are any licenses left.”

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. 

For more information, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/hunt/regulations or contact the FWP Region 1 office in Kalispell at 406-752-5501.