Hunters Asked To Submit Samples For CWD Testing

Sep 18, 2020

Older deer are more likely to test positive for CWD.
Credit California Department of Fish and Wildlife Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

As part of a statewide disease monitoring plan, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) is asking hunters in certain areas to submit their animals for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) testing.

CWD is a fatal disease in deer and elk that attacks the brain. Similar diseases are present in cattle (mad cow disease), sheep (scrapie), and humans (Creutzfedt-Jakob Disease and Kourou). While there's no evidence of CWD transferring to humans, the Centers for Disease Control recommends against eating meat from an animal that has tested positive.

WGFD recently adopted a plan to manage the disease because they're concerned it may have major impacts on herd numbers in the state.

"We're not going to eradicate this disease - it's likely not possible," said Casper Area Wildlife Management Coordinator Justin Binfet. "But there are some steps that we think we can take to at least manage or reduce the prevalence of this disease on the landscape for the long term health of our herds, and in order for us to be successful to do that, we need to understand just how prevalent this disease is in our various herds."

Areas that will be tested are changed every year so that the department can increase its dataset across the state.

"Our surveillance strategy around the state is to focus on one or two herds in each region around the state to get a much higher sample size for that area. So we can have much more confidence in estimating the true prevalence of this disease," said Binfet.

Hunters who are hunting deer or elk in selected areas will receive several notifications that will also outline where they can bring their animals for testing. Those hunting in an area that's not being sampled can still bring their animal to a Game and Fish Regional office during regular business hours to have a sample taken if they wish.

To collect a sample, the lymph nodes are removed. According to Binfet, this can damage the cape for later taxidermy. An easy way around this is to have your taxidermist cape the animal before you bring it in for testing.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Ivy Engel, at iengel@uwyo.edu.