Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Montana Wildlife
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Montana Wildlife Project

Application of systems modeling to identify novel approaches for wildlife health management

October 2022 - September 2025


Participating Agencies

  • National Wildlife Health Center

Chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurologic disease of cervids that causes population declines and is increasing in intensity and spatial extent, has proven extremely difficult to manage despite intensive control efforts that have spanned several decades. CWD is a significant management challenge in part because the etiological agent, an infectious prion, is extremely difficult to destroy, and can be transmitted directly or indirectly. The majority of management interventions to date require altering densities of deer which is not universally supported by stakeholders. Thus, management agencies are in desperate need of new management tools and approaches that account for these socio-political pressures. To meet this need, we in collaboration with the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, WI Department of Natural Resources, Willamette University and Ventana Systems Inc will use a systems approach to dynamically map the complex relationships between biological, social, and political processes for CWD. Through participatory modeling, we will involve stakeholder groups and experts in CWD, social science, and deer and forest health to integrate the wealth of existing knowledge of the system into a systems map that describes its functioning and the linkages between ecological and social processes. The outcome will be a framework for examining CWD and its impact on deer and forest health that managers can use to discover potential novel management approaches or new means of implementing existing management tools to improve deer health while explicitly accounting for socio-political challenges.