Chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in a hunting district just south of Yellowstone National Park, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced in a Monday press release.
The always fatal neurological disease was also identified in Deer Hunt Area 144, southeast of Palisades Reservoir, and in Elk Hunt Area 41 southeast of Greybull.
“While the prevalence of CWD in northwestern Wyoming is lower than in other parts of Wyoming, it remains a concern,” said Scott Edberg, deputy chief of the wildlife division. “Efforts to plan for that inevitably are currently underway with increased surveillance for the disease as well as the Elk Feedgrounds Public Engagement Process, which includes long-term planning for disease management at elk feedgrounds.”
Chronic wasting disease is spread by contact with an infected animal's bodily fluids. The infectious agent, which are malformed proteins called prions, can remain in the environment for a long time, making it difficult to halt the spread of CWD. Because of this, elk feedgrounds in Wyoming have raised concerns among some wildlife officials as possible breeding grounds for higher rates of infection.
The latest Wyoming cases were confirmed from lymph node samples submitted by hunters.
CWD was confirmed in Deer Hunt Areas 144 and 148, both from mule deer bucks harvested near Deadman Creek and in Soda Lake Meadows, respectively.
Game and Fish has conducted surveillance for CWD in Wyoming for more than two decades. In recent years CWD has been detected in more deer and elk hunt areas in northwestern Wyoming.
In the Cody Region Game and Fish confirmed the presence of CWD in Elk Hunt Area 41 from a hunter-harvested bull elk. Elk Hunt Area 41 is surrounded on three sides by known CWD-positive Elk Hunt Areas 66, 45 and 37 along the western edge of the Bighorn Mountains and in the Bighorn Basin. This hunt area also overlays Deer Hunt Areas 46 and 47 where CWD was confirmed in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
So far, elk seem less susceptible to infections, which can also spread to moose and whitetail deer.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends hunters not consume any animal that is obviously ill or tests positive for CWD.
A map of CWD endemic areas is available on the Game and Fish website.
Throughout the fall, Game and Fish has been asking hunters to collect lymph node samples from harvested deer and elk for CWD testing in focused monitoring hunt areas across Wyoming.
“Each CWD sample we receive is valuable for monitoring and understanding the disease,” said Hank Edwards, Game and Fish Wildlife Health Laboratory supervisor.
In 2020, Game and Fish personnel tested 6,496 CWD samples and continues to evaluate new recommendations for trying to manage the disease. So far, more than 1,770 samples have been tested in 2021.