Chronic Wasting Disease is a Threat to Wyoming’s Deer

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is concerned about chronic wasting disease (CWD) and how it may affect the future of Wyoming’s deer. The disease is fatal to deer, elk, and moose. Recent research in Wyoming and Colorado shows that it poses a serious threat to deer populations in areas with a high prevalence of the disease, and may even be impacting elk in at least one Colorado population. Two recently published academic studies show Wyoming deer herds with higher CWD prevalence may see significant decreases in population due to the disease.

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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 have evaluated vaccines, considered genetics, assisted with validation of diagnostic tests, and gathered over 30 years of prevalence data.

“Unfortunately, CWD is not a disease we can eradicate. There is no proven way to get rid of it, but we are committed to being part of the solution for years to come,” said director of Game and Fish, Scott Talbott. “Wyoming is partnering with other states to fight this disease.”

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 the prevalence of CWD. The other is a study of whether hunting may decrease the prevalence of CWD in deer populations.

“We have learned an incredible amount about CWD over the past 30 years, but unfortunately one of the biggest questions remaining is how to manage our populations to limit the harm from this disease. These studies are a way to start to address those questions,” said Dr. Mary Wood, State Wildlife Veterinarian.

“We know there are no easy answers and anything we do to address CWD will take a deep commitment and many years before we know if it was effective,” said Talbott, who also serves as chair of the National Fish and Wildlife Health Initiative, a committee of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

Game and Fish also expresses its appreciation to the people of Wyoming who care about wildlife. 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. “We have more to learn and part of that learning is maintaining an open dialogue with people across the state and sharing the most recent findings regarding CWD,” Talbott said.

Please visit the Game and Fish website for more information on chronic wasting disease transmission and regulations on transportation and disposal of carcasses.

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