Wyoming Game and Fish Department rounds up year with top stories of 2021
With 2021 coming to a close, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is reflecting on some of our most notable projects and news stories over the year. Each year is different, but one thing remains the same: the department worked tirelessly to conserve more than 800 species of fish and wildlife that call Wyoming home. 

“I’m extremely proud of the accomplishments of our great team here at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Wyoming’s people and wildlife faced immense challenges in 2021, and I’m grateful to the public and our partners for supporting our work for wildlife conservation,” Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik said. 

The following is a look back on some of the highlights of  the year with a collection of top stories from 2021.

Wyoming still free of zebra and quagga mussels
Aquatic invasive species continued to be a major concern for Wyoming. For more than 10 years Game and Fish has prioritized keeping AIS out of the state’s lakes and reservoirs. 

Game and Fish faced a major challenge when zebra mussels were identified in moss balls, an aquarium plant. It was the first time live mussels were found in water in the state. Game and Fish and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture — alongside many others — mobilized to remove products from shelves and grab the public’s attention to dispose of their moss balls safely. 

Over the summer season Game and Fish watercraft checkstations inspected more than 68,000 boats across the state to protect Wyoming’s waters from invasive aquatic plants and animals. Game and Fish personnel decontaminated 924 boats, and inspectors found live mussels on two. It's the highest number of decontaminations since the AIS program was established in 2010 by the State Legislature, and the first time live mussels were found on boats at Wyoming’s checkstations.

To date the department hasn’t identified zebra mussels in any natural waters in Wyoming nor municipal systems. Game and Fish formalized 23 rapid response plans to help act quickly if AIS are discovered in any natural waters.

Successful year of species recovery 
This year marked success for species recovery. Game and Fish made a strong commitment to wolves and grizzly bears in Wyoming, and the populations are healthy. For the 19th consecutive year wolf numbers have remained above minimum delisting criteria showing that Wyoming’s wolf management plan works. Similarly, grizzly bear populations have reached population levels and distribution far-beyond recovery. As a result of the hard work of Game and Fish wildlife managers and the contributions of all of those who work, recreate and live in occupied grizzly bear habitat, the state continues to have a healthy recovered population. Wyoming announced it would formally seek state management of grizzly bears again.

New licensing portal launched
New for 2021, anyone applying for or buying licenses, permits or stamps from the Game and Fish website was asked to create a username and password. The permanent change allows access to a login portal for customers and simplifies the licensing processes. The account came with big advantages, too, serving as a customized dashboard for information specific to the customer.

Cody Office construction began
Game and Fish broke ground for the new regional office building in Cody after a decade of planning to bring a community facility to best serve the public. The new building is located less than one mile north of Cody on Wyoming Highway 120. The property is situated on the southwest side of highway, across from the intersection of Highway 120 and Road 2 ABN. Construction is slated to be completed in the summer of 2022. 

State record longnose sucker
Casper angler Christopher Bobo, 33, broke the state fish record for a longnose sucker. On May 21, Bobo reeled in the lunker from the North Platte River in Casper. The official weight was 2 pounds, 4.5 ounces. The length of the fish was 18 inches with a girth (circumference) of 9.4 inches. Bobo’s fish broke the record previously set in 1998 on Little Goose Creek outside of Sheridan.

Lab gains prestigious accreditation
After more than a year of rigorous preparation, the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensics and Fish Health Lab recently received accreditation through the American National Standards Institute’s National Accreditation Board. It’s the top accreditation a lab can acquire, and it makes the Game and Fish facility one of the most trusted wildlife forensic labs in the country. The Game and Fish lab provides forensic work, tooth aging and fish health services to the Game and Fish, as well as a dozen other states. 

White-nose syndrome confirmed
Wildlife researchers confirmed the presence of white-nose syndrome in bats at Devils Tower National Monument. The spread of white-nose syndrome and Pd into northeastern Wyoming is disheartening and frustrating, but didn’t come as a surprise to wildlife managers. The disease was confirmed in the nearby Black Hills in South Dakota in 2018 and in Fallon County, Montana in April 2021. Wyoming is the 37th state to confirm the disease, which also has been found in seven Canadian provinces. Wyoming has a white-nose monitoring plan in place, and people can help stop the spread by cleaning their caving gear and clothes thoroughly between excursions. 

Feedgrounds public engagement process continued
The public collaborative, Elk feedgrounds: A challenge we can take on, asked the public to share concerns and thoughts on Wyoming’s 22 elk feedgrounds. In shared learning sessions Game and Fish listened and answered questions about those operations. Now, those thoughts are fueling in-depth engagement with various stakeholder groups on elk feedgrounds management. Ultimately, the Game and Fish-led process will produce a long-term management plan for elk feedgrounds managed by the department.

Super Tag broke records
The Wyoming Super Tag raffle raised a record-breaking $1.46 million dollars for conservation in 2021. The Game and Fish program saw another banner year of ticket sales, bolstered by hunters vying for 11 chances to get a license for the state’s premier big and trophy game. Created by Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Legislature in 2013, the Super Tag raffle provides hunters opportunity and raises money for wildlife management in Wyoming. This year, 111,606 tickets were sold, nearly a 9%  increase from last year. The program has raised more than $7.6  million for top conservation issues since its inception. 
Sara DiRienzo, Public Information Officer - (sara.dirienzo@wyo.gov)

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