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

October 12, 2021
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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 for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing in target hunt areas.

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 Area
Mule deer, adult bucks North Bighorns 50-53
Mule deer, adult bucks Paintrock 41, 46 and 47
Mule deer, adult bucks Greybull River 124, 165
Elk, adult cow or bull Medicine Lodge elk 41,45

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. Samples from does, white-tailed deer, elk and moose throughout the Big Horn Basin will be tested if requested by hunters.

“Our goals with collecting samples and monitoring CWD are to better understand and manage the health of 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. “Although it's an additional benefit to hunters, Game and Fish does not CWD test deer and elk for the purpose of helping hunters make an informed decision on whether or not to consume the animal.”

Samples collected from mule deer and elk harvested from targeted areas help Game and Fish to 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.

Hunters can have animals sampled at any game check station this season or at the Cody Regional office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Hunters can call the regional office at 307-527-7125 for tentative check station locations and hours.

Additional options for testing include select processors and taxidermists throughout the Basin, drop barrels for heads located at the Cody regional office and in Powell at Northwest College on the south side of Science and Math Building at 6th and Division Streets, or 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.

New this year, hunters who submit a usable sample will be entered into a raffle for an opportunity to win quality outdoor gear. Hunters can win prizes for samples submitted from targeted (Tier 1) and non-targeted (Tier 2) areas.  Targeted samples include adult male mule deer or any adult elk from targeted CWD monitoring hunt areas.  Non-targeted samples include all other CWD samples regardless of what hunt area they came from.  

Tier 1 prizes include:
  • Special Edition Nosler Model 48 in .28 Nosler, donated by RMEF, with a Leupold VX-5HD 3-15x44 rifle scope, donated by RMEF
  • Weatherby Vangard High Country in 6.5 Creedmoor, with a Maven RS.1 2.5-15x44 FFP  rifle scope, donated by WY Wild Sheep Foundation, Weatherby, & Maven
  • Maven S.1S 25-50x80 spotting scope, donated by WY Wild Sheep Foundation & Maven
  • First Lite Catalyst softshell jacket, Obsidian merino wool pants, and Kiln 250 Aerowool hoodie, donated by First Lite
Tier 2 prizes include:
  • Vanguard Weatherguard rifle in .270 Winchester, donated by WY Wild Sheep Foundation & Weatherby
  • Maven B.1 (8x42 or 10x42) binoculars, donated by WY Wild Sheep Foundation & Mave
  • KUIU Valo Camo, Pro 3600 Full Kit Backpack, donated by Muley Fanatics
Winners will be drawn in March 2022 – Good Luck!

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 (the proportion of animals positive vs. all animals tested) 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, these observations are similar. Based on targeted sampling, hotspots occur along the lower Shoshone and lower Greybull Rivers, and near Worland.  Other areas in the Bighorn Basin have been difficult to sample and have insufficient data.
Research suggests that CWD can lead to declines in some deer and elk populations at prevalence over 10%. Additional data suggests that CWD can decrease the number of older bucks in a population.
Although this disease has not been shown to be transmissible to humans, hunters are encouraged to wear rubber or latex gloves when dressing carcasses and avoid handling the brain and spinal tissues. When butchering, meat should be boned out. Hunters should not consume animals that appear to be sick, nor consume brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen or lymph nodes. Washing hands and instruments is good practice. Knives and other equipment can be disinfected by soaking in 40:60 bleach water for five minutes. 

Hunters should refer to page 7 of the 2021 Antelope, Deer and Elk Hunting Regulations for specific CWD provisions regarding transportation of harvested animals.

- WGFD -

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