CWD hunts close below quotas

Photo courtesy of Bruce Luhrsen

Feb. 15 brought a close to the Bridger and Sage Creek special chronic wasting disease hunts, and both fell short of their quotas.

Gary Bertellotti was incident commander for the Sage Creek special hunt, located over 1,200 square miles of Carbon County.

“Our quota was 157 samples we needed to take from mule deer,” he said. “Right now, I understand the number is 121 mule deer, with 89 does and 32 bucks.”

Sample quotas were set to allow Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to determine how prevalent the disease is in the region. Falling short of the hunt quota means Bertellotti is now looking at other ways to reach the sample number.

“To get our 157 samples, our plan is to utilize hunters during the general season in that area next fall,” he said. “Once we have all of the samples in, and we’ve received our data, we will be putting out a report on what we found, what we found worked and what we’ll be doing next year.”

The test results from what samples were taken have been encouraging, according to Bertellotti.

“Out of 121 samples, we’re still waiting for nine mule deer doe and three mule deer buck samples to come back,” he said. “At this point, we have only the one positive, the one that triggered the special chronic wasting disease hunt.

“All of the hunt samples have been negative, which is a good thing.”

Incident Commander Barb Beck oversaw the 226-squaremile Bridger special hunt in Liberty County. While the hunt’s 200-mule-deer quota was met in January, the whitetail quota was unmet by the event’s Feb. 15 closing date, falling over 70 samples short.

While Beck’s staff can now determine prevalence for CWD in the area’s mule deer, the missed whitetail quota is an obstacle.

“Researchers will look at that [situation], determine what their level of confidence will be, and that will give us guidance as we look to next year,” she said.

Beck still has several options on the table, from relying on next fall’s general hunting season to another special CWD hunt.

“What we’re doing now is pausing for a minute to look at how things went during this first hunt that we ran, and learn from that,” she said.

Like Bertellotti, Beck is happy about the sample test results for her region so far.

“We think that we’re at eight confirmed positives for the Bridger area, seven mule deer and one whitetail,” she said. “We have most of the results back, and we’re extremely pleased with the low number of positive samples.”

"All of the hunt samples have been negative, which is a good thing.”
- Gary Bertellotti, Sage Creek hunt incident Commander



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