CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said on Wednesday that chronic wasting disease has been detected in the North Bighorns elk herd unit.
Seven elk tested positive in two Elk Hunt Areas 35 and 37 based on 206 hunter-harvested samples collected from 2018-2020. The prevalence rate of chronic wasting disease in the North Bighorns elk herd in Hunt Areas 35 and 37 is estimated at 3.4%.
Game and Fish said that their chronic wasting disease surveillance program shifted in 2019 from general monitoring of the spread of the disease to a concentration on specific deer and elk herds in regions across the state.
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“Efforts are made by regional personnel to collect a minimum of 200 tissue samples from harvested animals in each selected herd,” Game and Fish said. “This minimum sample size produces a reliable estimate of prevalence, rather than simply detecting presence of the disease in an area.”
Game and Fish said that Elk Hunt Areas 35 and 37 overlap deer hunt areas where chronic wasting disease has been confirmed in mule and white-tailed deer.
The department noted that samples of the North Bighorns herd were not uniformly taken from the two hunt areas “with Hunt Area 37 accounting for 52 percent of the sampling effort and only five samples collected from Hunt Area 39.”
Game and Fish said the North Bighorns elk herd unit was originally scheduled for priority chronic wasting disease sampling in 2021, but that enough hunter harvested samples from 2018-2020 provided enough for an adequate sample size to establish an estimated prevalence of the disease.
“We plan to prioritize this herd for sampling again in 2027,” said Sheridan Region Wildlife Biologist Tim Thomas. “At that time, we will implement protocols to improve equitable sampling across all hunt areas.”
Game and Fish said that they have implemented no chronic wasting disease management actions for the North Bighorns herd.
“Click here to learn more about CWD and read the department’s CWD management plan,” Game and Fish added.