Game and Fish could mandate field testing for CWD

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a new tool it can use to help measure any future efforts to try and manage chronic wasting disease—a disease that is fatal to deer, elk and moose.

A new regulation allows WGFD to mandate that harvested deer, elk and moose in certain hunt areas be tested for CWD. The department will not implement mandatory CWD testing at this time, but does want to continue to encourage hunters to have their deer, elk and moose tested on a voluntary basis.

“We continue to ask hunters in certain hunt areas to have their animal tested. This is voluntary, but there will be an enhanced push to get samples from deer, elk and moose,” said Scott Edberg, deputy chief of the Wildlife Division. “This year, our goal is to collect good CWD prevalence data for a regional research study evaluating deer management and CWD outcomes across the West.”

CWD was first discovered in Wyoming more than 30 years ago. Since that time, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has strived to gain a better understanding of the disease through research and on the ground monitoring. In cooperation with other researchers, Game and Fish has evaluated vaccines, considered genetics, assisted with validation of diagnostic tests, and gathered over 30 years of prevalence data. Now there is a move across the west to try to research management options to control the disease.

Recent research in Wyoming and Colorado shows that it poses a serious threat to some deer populations where the disease prevalence is high and may even be impacting elk in at least one Colorado population.

“There is no proven way to get rid of CWD once it is firmly established, but we believe we may learn more about how to slow its spread or lower prevalence through adaptive management,” said Game and Fish Wildlife Veterinarian Mary Wood.

Game and Fish has joined two collaborative efforts to research management of the disease. One project developed recommendations for strategies that states can use to potentially slow the spread and reduce prevalence of CWD. The other is a study of whether hunting may decrease the prevalence of CWD in deer populations.

Game and Fish plans to continue with hunter harvest sampling to monitor CWD. Hunters have provided samples allowing the agency to learn about this disease, and hunters may be integral to fighting it. People who have reported sick animals also help monitor the disease.

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