The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is concerned about how chronic wasting disease or CWD may affect the future of the state’s deer. In reaction, Wyoming teamed up with Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Canada to create three management strategies.
CWD is an infectious disease affecting deer and elk that has been spreading through Wyoming and the West for the past thirty years. And as a result, the deer population is significantly decreasing in the state.
Wyoming teamed up with three other states in the region and Canada to find some strategies to manage the disease together. Mary Wood, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department veterinarian, said the West has distinctive differences on how the disease spreads compared to other regions of America.
“In the West, the disease seems to be largely driven by mule deer and we have multiple different cervid populations that are overlapping in the same area,” she said.
Wood said the first proposed strategy is to reduce the number of areas where deer congregate because of human presence like artificial feeders. She says the other two approaches look at changing the way we harvest deer. This would be done by changing the existing hunting season so that an increased number of bucks are taken and fewer does, or by shifting the timing of the season.
Wood said it could even go a step further.
“To help us identify exactly where thick pockets of CWD are on the landscape and see if we can put a late season out and see if we can get hunters to go out and help us remove these pockets of the disease,” she said.
These approaches rely a lot on public involvement. Game and Fish plans public discussion on the ideas before they are implemented.