CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is trying out a new approach in its effort to monitor the spread of chronic wasting disease this year.
For the first time, Game and Fish is mandating that hunters submit chronic wasting disease samples from deer harvested in two hunt areas in the Lander Region. In the past, Game and Fish has requested hunters submit samples from animals harvested in specific areas, but had never made this a requirement.
The department is requiring that hunters who harvest deer from Hunt Areas 96 and 97 submit chronic wasting disease samples this hunting season. These hunt areas are home to the Sweetwater Mule Deer Herd Unit.
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“These hunt areas were selected because this herd unit is a priority for CWD data collection,” said Lander Region Wildlife Management Coordinator Daryl Lutz. “The number of samples needed is extremely difficult to get using traditional check stations and field checks, and there is an opportunity with adequate CWD sample collection and data to assess the effect of proportionally high buck harvest as it may relate to CWD prevalence.”
“Hunters can bring their deer in at Game and Fish-operated check stations or department regional offices. If necessary, hunters can submit samples on their own.”
The two hunt areas open for archery on Wednesday, September 1, with rifle season set to open on October 15.
“Successful hunters can submit samples by taking their harvested animal to a check station, a Game and Fish office, or by collecting a sample themselves,” Game and Fish said. “To learn more about collecting a sample yourself, watch the online video, complete a submission form, and mail to the Wildlife Health Lab. Please visit wgfd.wyo.gov/CWD-testing for instructions and more information.”
Game and Fish notes that animals with chronic wasting disease may show signs of weight loss, a reluctance to move, excessive salivation, droopy ears, increased drinking and urinating, and lethargy. Animals with the disease can eventually die from it.
“However, not all animals show symptoms; the majority of CWD-positive animals that are harvested appear normal,” Game and Fish add. “The only way to know whether a harvested animal has CWD is to have it tested.”
The department has been monitoring the disease since 1997. It is more prevalent in deer than in elk in Wyoming, but the disease can also impact moose. It is a fatal disease of the central nervous system.
“Hunters have an important role in wildlife health research and management,” Lutz said. “The success of Wyoming’s monitoring efforts are in large part due to hunter cooperation. We appreciate hunters getting their harvested deer to us for sampling or taking the samples themselves (lymph nodes) and getting them to us.”