CASPER, Wyo — Wyoming hunters who submitted a tooth sample can learn the age of their kill from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The agency announced Monday it is on track to gather ages from more than 4,000 big game teeth collected during the 2020 hunting season. Ages are determined by counting layers of cementum, a mineral deposited in layers in the root of an animal’s tooth each winter.
“This method is similar to counting rings on a tree,” said Molly Bredehoft, who coordinates the tooth aging program out of the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory in Laramie.
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Game and Fish’s 2020 tooth harvest is the largest yet due to increased hunter check stations efforts and research projects. Game and Fish wildlife managers use the data to help analyze age classes to “make sound management decisions and learn more about population dynamics.”
Bredehoft noted that pronghorn tooth submissions saw the biggest boost.
This year, the oldest hunter-harvested pronghorn was 13.5 years old. For other big game, the oldest recorded ages for 2020 harvests are:
- Elk – 16.5 years old
- White-tailed deer – 12.5 years old
- Mule deer – 12.5 years old
- Moose – 11 years old
Bison ages will be available at the beginning of April. Other species, like bobcat, mountain lion and black bear will be available later in the year.
Certain teeth are preferred for aging for different species. Game and Fish needs both first incisors for mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, moose, bison and other ungulate species.
Hunter data will be linked automatically, including tooth aging results.
Some data may not be available yet, as lab personnel are continuing to post information over the coming weeks and will update reports again in March for big game.