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Natural Resources & Energy

Chronic Wasting Disease is killing Wyoming’s big game, slowly

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Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is slowly on the rise across the state, according to new data from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The agency tested nearly 7,000 samples of which 13 percent were positive for CWD. The state has seen a 10 percent increase over the last decade, with cases most prevalent in the southeast corner of the state and the Bighorn Basin.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects big game, like deer, elk and moose, by attacking their central nervous system.

“It's kind of scary because we're not sure where it's going to stop,” Hank Edwards, supervisor of the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Health Laboratory, said. “We don't know where prevalence is going to level off.”

CWD was first detected in Wyoming in 1985 in mule deer in the southeast. But Edwards said in recent years, it has escalated into a more serious problem across the state.

“Chronic Wasting Disease has spent the last 30 to 50 years, slowly marching across the state,” he said. “So this isn't a fast disease, but, this is a big worry.”

Edwards said Game and Fish is looking at herd management to address the disease, including harvesting animals more likely to have CWD and attempting to prevent contamination in areas they congregate.

The disease has been identified nationally and internationally. Federally, the House passed the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act late last year. It includes $70 million for research and prevention across the country. CWD has been detected in 27 states in the U.S.

The act was introduced to the Senate floor Thursday.

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