12-11-20 cwd sampling 3web.jpg

Deer lymph node glands sit in a plastic casing after being removed by a Sheridan Police Department officer Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2020. SPD officers part of the deer management program send samples to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to test for chronic wasting disease.

SHERIDAN — Chronic wasting disease is a chronic, fatal disease of the central nervous system in mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.

CWD belongs to the group of rare diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. These disorders are caused by abnormal proteins called “prions."

Since 1997, Wyoming Game and Fish has monitored the distribution and prevalence of CWD to better understand how this disease affects the health of Wyoming’s deer and elk populations. Continued monitoring of CWD over time is important to help Game and Fish understand the potential impacts of the disease as well as evaluate management actions for deer and elk.

Initial surveillance goals focused on monitoring the spread of CWD to new areas of the state. This disease has now been detected in most deer hunt areas across Wyoming.

In 2019, Game and Fish initiated a new monitoring regime that focuses on obtaining CWD prevalence estimates for deer and elk herd units across the state. To get reliable prevalence estimates, samples from at least 200 harvested males from each area are needed. To accomplish this, testing occurs on rotating hunt areas in each departmental region of the state.

This year’s targeted areas in northeast Wyoming are the Pumpkin Buttes mule deer herd, located south of Interstate 90 between Buffalo and Gillette in hunt areas 19, 29 and 31, the Upper Powder River mule deer herd in hunt areas 30, 32, 33, 163 and 169, the North Bighorns mule deer herd in hunt areas 24, 25, 27 and 28 and the Black Hills mule deer herd in hunt areas 1-6.

Game and Fish asks that if you harvest a mule deer or white-tailed deer in one of these hunt areas, please submit a sample for testing to help achieve our goals. Personnel who make contact with hunters in the field, at game check stations and at meat processing facilities will request CWD samples from harvested animals from these targeted areas. Sampling takes just a few minutes and requires removing a set of lymph nodes from the neck of the animal.

Participation is voluntary, but hunters are very important in helping Game and Fish understand the disease and achieve CWD monitoring goals. Hunters harvesting deer outside of this year’s focused surveillance areas can still submit a sample for testing by bringing their animal to the Sheridan Regional Office. Results from all tested animals will be available on the Game and Fish website within three weeks of testing.

Animals infected with CWD can look healthy and in good condition. They usually do not show visible signs of the disease until the final few weeks of life. Therefore, a laboratory-tested sample is necessary to determine if the animal has the disease.

To date, there have been no cases of CWD in humans and no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people. However, experimental studies show that risk to humans cannot be ruled out and suggest it is important to prevent human exposure. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend CWD positive animals not be consumed. You can quarter and freeze your animal until test results are available to save on meat processing costs in case your animal tests positive. In the case of a positive CWD result, the lab results can be used as a receipt to dispose of the carcass at an approved landfill without the disposal being considered waste of edible parts.

CWD can be transmitted from carcasses of harvested animals that are positive for CWD. To minimize the possibility of transmission to healthy cervids, Wyoming’s regulations require deer, elk and moose hunters transport only the following items within Wyoming from the site of the kill:

• Whole carcasses can be transported to a camp, private residence for processing, a taxidermist, a processor or a CWD sample collection site in Wyoming provided that the head and all portions of the spinal column remain at the site of kill or such parts are disposed in any approved landfill or approved incinerator in Wyoming. A online map of statewide landfills and carcass disposal locations is available atwgfd.wyo.gov.

• Cut and wrapped meat

• Edible portions with no portion of the spinal column or head attached

• Cleaned hide without the head attached

• Skull, skull plate or antlers that have been cleaned of all meat and brain tissue

• Teeth

• Finished taxidermy mounts

Whole deer, elk and moose carcasses cannot be transported out of Wyoming. The only parts approved to leave the state are edible portions with no part of the spinal column or head; cleaned hide without the head; skull, skull plate or antlers that have been cleaned of all meat and brain tissue; teeth; or finished taxidermy mounts. While these parts are permitted by Wyoming Game and Fish to leave Wyoming, other states may have different transportation restrictions and requirements.

Note nothing in these requirements allows hunters to remove evidence of sex, species or horn or antler development as required in the regulations.

Recommended for you