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Although CWD has existed for at least 40 years, we still do not know how the disease will ultimately impact deer and elk populations. Early mathematical modeling suggested that CWD could eliminate entire populations of deer or elk. Few scientists today believe that is likely. Rather, more recent models suggest that CWD will eventually decrease the population, sometimes substantially, but over time the population will rebound and stabilize, albeit at levels less than those prior to the disease’s arrival.
Despite herculean efforts by some state and provincial wildlife management agencies to stop CWD, these efforts have not stopped or controlled the spread of CWD. Today, there are many commonly accepted management practices (i.e. targeted/individual animal removal, annual statewide surveillance, carcass transportation regulations) adopted by most states and provinces, including Wyoming, to help slow the spread of CWD. Few wildlife professionals today think that CWD can be eradicated once it becomes established.
Studies conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Colorado Division of Wildlife, and the University of Wyoming concluded that it is highly unlikely that domestic cattle can contract CWD. These conclusions were based on the following findings:
1. After 10 years, 10 cattle given a single oral inoculum of CWD showed no signs of disease.
2. After 10 years, 20 cattle living amongst CWD-infected deer and elk showed no signs of disease.