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Fish and Game seeks help from hunters for chronic wasting disease

Sep 18, 2016 From staff reports

Chronic wasting disease, a fatal disease caused by prions that impacts deer, elk, and moose has been documented across much of the state.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, hunters play a significant role in monitoring the further spread of this disease and providing valuable information for managing CWD. In western Wyoming, the CWD management plan lays out actions based on results of surveillance efforts.

"Game and Fish really appreciates all members of the public who submit samples or report unhealthy looking animals. The CWD testing is used to determine distribution and prevalence rates in cervids - elk, deer and moose. It also can inform further management actions, like at our elk feedgrounds. The public plays a very important role in taking on this disease," said Scott Edberg, deputy chief of the Wildlife Division.

With the expansion of CWD into western Wyoming, Game and Fish is putting extra focus on that area by asking hunters to bring in their harvest for sampling to get a better understanding of CWD presence by species and prevalence rates.

"This in turn will provide the department the needed data to make proper management decisions," said Edberg. Specific areas of the state where Game and Fish would like more samples are Teton, Park, Sublette, Lincoln, Fremont, Sweetwater and Uinta counties. Game and Fish is also asking for samples from deer hunt areas 1,2,3,4,5,6 (Black Hills) 59,64,65 and 66 and elk hunt areas 7 and 19.

Game and Fish cautions that the testing program is not focused on ensuring the quality of the meat of hunters. Game and Fish does follow the Centers for Disease Control recommendations that the public not eat any animal that is obviously ill or tests positive for CWD. Game and Fish also urges hunters to wear rubber or latex gloves as a general precaution against all diseases when field dressing an animal.

"There are some tips that Game and Fish offers on the best ways to make sure hunters submit a usable sample," Edberg said. "We need need the unfrozen and unrotten - fresher the better - head of any deer, elk or moose with the upper portion of the neck attached. The sampling process takes about 5-10 minutes."

Game and Fish also will ask for the hunt area and a specific location where the harvest occurred. If a sample submitted to Game and Fish's CWD surveillance program tests positive and adequate contact information is provided, the hunter will be notified of a positive result.

Hunters who participate in Game and Fish's CWD surveillance program by providing deer, elk, or moose tissue samples and provide adequate information, can obtain test results at:

https://wgfd.wyo.gov/services/education/cwd/surveillance/frmlookup.aspx.

Last month, new research by the Univeristy of Wyoming indicated that chronic wasting disease has caused significant declines in east-central Wyoming white-tailed deer populations, The research, led by recent UW Ph.D. graduate David Edmunds, under the direction of Associate Professor Todd Cornish in the Department of Veterinary Sciences, is the first conclusive evidence that CWD found at high prevalence leads directly to population declines in free-ranging deer populations.

The findings, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, provide new information that could influence management of this continually expanding disease.

"Chronic wasting disease has likely been present in southeast Wyoming deer and elk populations for approximately 50 years," Edmunds says. "It has been steadily increasing to the point that some hunt areas are seeing populations with as many as 30 percent to almost 50 percent of harvested deer testing positive for this disease."

For eight years, he and his colleagues tracked white-tailed deer east of Casper to determine if CWD itself can cause population numbers to decline by increasing mortality of deer annually.

For more information about CWD in Wyoming, visit the WGFD website at: https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Wildlife-in- Wyoming/More-Wildlife/Wildlife-Disease/Chronic-Wasting-Disease.

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David Edmunds, recent UW Ph.D. graduate, performed a tonsil biopsy on a white-tailed deer to test for chronic wasting disease. He and other UW researchers have documented the first conclusive evidence that CWD found at high prevalence leads directly to population declines in free-ranging deer populations. Photo by Todd Cornish

David Edmunds, recent UW Ph.D. graduate, performed a tonsil biopsy on a white-tailed deer to test for chronic wasting disease. He and other UW researchers have documented the first conclusive evidence that CWD found at high prevalence leads directly to population declines in free-ranging deer populations. Photo by Todd Cornish


David Edmunds, recent UW Ph.D. graduate, performed a tonsil biopsy on a white-tailed deer to test for chronic wasting disease. He and other UW researchers have documented the first conclusive evidence that CWD found at high prevalence leads directly to population declines in free-ranging deer populations. Photo by Todd Cornish

David Edmunds, recent UW Ph.D. graduate, performed a tonsil biopsy on a white-tailed deer to test for chronic wasting disease. He and other UW researchers have documented the first conclusive evidence that CWD found at high prevalence leads directly to population declines in free-ranging deer populations. Photo by Todd Cornish

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