BONDURANT, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department confirmed chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer hunt area 152, approximately 12 miles west of Bondurant on Willow Creek.
The mule deer buck that tested positive was hunter-harvested. This is the first time CWD has been found in deer hunt area 152, part of the Sublette mule deer herd, and is in a hunt area close to wintering elk feed grounds. CWD is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk, and moose.
“Seeing a deer test positive for CWD west of the continental divide again is concerning,” said Scott Edberg, deputy chief of wildlife. “Game and Fish is always concerned about the spread of CWD. We have conducted CWD surveillance for more than two decades and have focused efforts on monitoring the disease and those methods continue this year.”
CWD has been previously detected in mule deer nearby hunt area 152- one south of Afton in 2016, one south of Pinedale in 2017 and one north of Jackson in 2019.
CWD has not been detected in elk wintering on any of Wyoming’s 22 feed grounds or the National Elk Refuge to date. Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have provided supplemental feed to elk during the winter months for more than 100 years. Feed grounds maintain elk population objectives while also maximizing the separation of elk from cattle to prevent property damage and minimize brucellosis transmission to cattle. However, feed grounds concentrate large numbers of elk in small areas for several months, increasing the potential for the spread of diseases among elk, including CWD. The prevalence rate of CWD is currently less in elk than in deer.
Knowing this, Game and Fish will continue several initiatives related to elk feed grounds and CWD, including CWD personnel and surveillance on elk feed grounds and surrounding winter range. Game and Fish delays feeding as late as possible into the winter and discontinues feeding early in the spring to lower transmission possibility between elk. Game and Fish disease biologists and seasonal CWD sample technicians in the Jackson and Pinedale regions focus specifically on monitoring and management.
Any animal exhibiting potential symptoms of CWD is lethally removed and sampled. Game wardens, wildlife biologists, and other employees are trained to collect CWD samples whenever possible (e.g. hunter-killed animals, vehicle-killed animals and targeted removals) in an effort to maximize sample collection and associated disease detection.
Education is also a large component of monitoring CWD. Game and Fish has a website to inform hunters of current CWD protocols and connect the public to wildlife managers. Further, Game and Fish is in the midst of revising the agency’s CWD management plan through a public collaborative process. Next year, Game and Fish will conduct a public process for a management plan specifically geared toward managing CWD on feed grounds.
“When CWD is found on elk feed grounds, we will all be faced with some difficult discussions
regarding elk management in western Wyoming,” said Brad Hovinga, Jackson regional wildlife
supervisor. “Game and Fish has been working to lay the groundwork to minimize impacts and
be prepared, but we realize this is a serious wildlife dilemma where solutions will require broad
public support and a collaborative approach that includes help from partner agencies, elected
officials, sportspersons, the general public and local communities.”
Game and Fish reminds hunters and the public they play a significant role in monitoring the distribution of this disease and provide valuable information for managing CWD. If you see a deer, elk or moose that appears to be sick or not acting in a normal manner, please contact your local game warden, wildlife biologist or Game and Fish office immediately.
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