This fall, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking successful mule deer and elk hunters in the Big Horn Basin to get their game tested for chronic wasting disease.
WGFD aims to collect samples from at least 200 adult mule deer bucks or adult elk in the following areas: Mule deer, adult bucks - Clarks Fork 105, 106, 109; Mule deer, adult bucks - Shoshone River 121, 122, 123; Mule deer, adult bucks - Greybull River 124, 165; Elk, adult cow or bull - Cody Elk 55, 56, 58-61, 66
“Our primary goal in collecting samples and monitoring CWD is to manage for healthy wildlife populations,” said Corey Class, Cody-area Wildlife Management coordinator. "Hunters and volunteers are very important to helping us understand the disease and achieve our goals."
CWD is widely distributed across Wyoming and is always fatal to deer, elk and moose.
To better understand prevalence (the proportion of animals positive vs. all animals tested), impacts to deer herds and possible management options, Game and Fish is monitoring prevalence of CWD over many years. Strategically focusing on specific herd units within a given year will help Game and Fish obtain more samples, which allows changes in CWD prevalence to be detected over time. As CWD monitoring goals are obtained within targeted herd units, new herd units are added for targeted surveillance using a scheduled rotation.
“Deer hunt areas 105, 106, 109, 121, 122, and 123 will continue as target areas because we were unable to meet the goal of 200 samples from these herd units last year,” Class said.
Hunters can have animals sampled at any game check station this season, by biologists or game wardens in the field, at the Cody regional Game and Fish office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by calling 307-527-7125 to schedule an appointment.
Hunters can also use head drop barrels located at the headquarters of Yellowtail Wildlife Management Area near Lovell, the Game and Fish office in Cody, or in Powell at Northwest College on the south side of the Science and Math Building at 6th and Division streets. An additional option for hunters is to call the Northwest College CWD hotline at 307-754-6018 to schedule a time during regular business hours for a sample to be collected.
Hunters can also learn how to take a sample with a how-to video on the Game and Fish website and can obtain sample kits from the Game and Fish office in Cody. Hunters can also call the Game and Fish office for a list of local taxidermists or meat processors who can collect a sample from a harvested animal for CWD testing.
Hunters outside of this year’s focused surveillance areas can still submit a sample for testing.
Over the last 30 years, CWD prevalence has increased across Wyoming. In the Bighorn Basin, prevalence in specific herds ranges from 0% to more than 20%, and is highest in the southeast corner. Other areas in the Big Horn Basin have been difficult to sample and have insufficient data.
Research suggests that CWD can lead to declines in some deer and elk populations with prevalence over 10%. Additional data suggests that CWD can decrease the number of older bucks in a population.