Regional Offices > Cody Region > Cody Region News > Game and Fish to focus CWD sampling efforts on mule deer and elk harvested in specific hunt areas in

Game and Fish to focus CWD sampling efforts on mule deer and elk harvested in specific hunt areas in the Big Horn Basin

September 30, 2020
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Hunters we need your help

Cody - The Wyoming Game and Fish Department needs help from hunters this fall to collect samples from mule deer and elk in target hunt areas for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing.  
In the Big Horn Basin, Game and Fish aims to collect samples from at least 200 adult mule deer bucks or adult elk in the following areas:             

Species Herd Unit        Hunt areas
Mule deer, adult bucks Clarks Fork     105, 106, 109
Mule deer, adult bucks Shoshone River 121, 122, 123
Mule deer, adult bucks Greybull River 124, 165
Elk, adult cow or bull   Cody Elk 55, 56, 58-61, 66

Game and Fish is asking hunters that harvest mule deer bucks or adult elk in these specific hunt areas to submit samples to Game and Fish for testing. Hunters outside of this year’s focused surveillance areas can still submit a sample for testing.

“Our primary goal in collecting samples and monitoring CWD is to manage for healthy wildlife populations. Hunters and volunteers are very important to helping us understand the disease and achieve our goals,” said Cody area Wildlife Management Coordinator, Corey Class.
Samples collected from mule deer and elk harvested from targeted areas help Game and Fish track CWD as part of a long-term, state-wide monitoring plan. CWD is widely distributed across Wyoming and is fatal to deer, elk and moose.
To help better understand prevalence (the proportion of animals positive vs. all animals tested), impacts to deer herds and possible management options, Game and Fish is monitoring prevalence of CWD over many years.  Strategically focusing on specific herd units within a given year will help Game and Fish obtain more samples, which allows changes in CWD prevalence to be detected over time.  As CWD monitoring goals are obtained within targeted herd units, new herd units are added for targeted surveillance using a scheduled rotation.
“Deer hunt areas 105, 106, 109, 121, 122, and 123 will continue as target areas because we were unable to meet the goal of 200 samples from these herd units last year,” Class said.  

Hunters can have animals sampled at any game check station this season, by biologists or game wardens in the field, at the Cody regional Game and Fish office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or by calling 307-527-7125 to schedule an appointment.  Hunters can also use head drop barrels located at the headquarters of Yellowtail Wildlife Management area near Lovell, the Game and Fish office in Cody or in Powell at Northwest College on the south side of Science and Math Building at 6th and Division Streets.   An additional option for hunters is to call the Northwest College CWD hotline at 307-754-6018 to schedule a time during regular business hours for a sample to be collected from a harvested deer, elk or moose.
Hunters can also learn how to take a sample with a how-to video on the Game and Fish website and can obtain sample kits from the Game and Fish office in Cody.  Hunters can also call the Game and Fish office for a list of local taxidermists or meat processors that can collect a sample from a harvested animal for CWD testing.  
History of CWD in Wyoming
CWD is a chronic, fatal disease of the central nervous system in mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.  CWD belongs to a group of rare diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. Although many diseases are caused by various parasites including bacteria and viruses, CWD and similar diseases are caused by abnormal proteins called “prions”.
CWD was first identified in free-ranging mule deer in southeastern Wyoming in 1985, followed by elk in 1986. Over the past 20 years, surveillance data has shown an increase in prevalence and distribution of CWD in Wyoming, particularly in deer. CWD is now found across the majority of the state, with new detections suggesting continued westward spread of the disease.
Prevalence of CWD in free-ranging populations is higher in deer than elk, and tends to be higher in bucks than does. Over the last 30 years, CWD prevalence has increased across Wyoming. In the Basin, prevalence in specific herds ranges from 0% to over 20%, and is highest in the southeast corner. Other areas in the Big Horn Basin have been difficult to sample and have insufficient data.
Research suggests that CWD can lead to declines in some deer and elk populations with prevalence over 10%. Additional data suggests that CWD can decrease the number of older bucks in a population. Because of this, it is vital that wildlife managers obtain baseline prevalence data for deer and elk herds in order to manage for healthy sustainable herds into the future.

- WGFD -

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