WGFD seeking hunters help in the Big Horn Basin

The Chronic Wasting Disease Working Group is charged with developing recommendations to revise Game and Fish’s CWD management plan. WGFD Photo

CODY-The Wyoming Game and Fish Department needs help from hunters this fall to collect samples from mule deer bucks for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing in targeted areas of the Bighorn Basin. 

Hunters are a very important component in helping Game and Fish understand the disease and achieve CWD monitoring goals. Game and Fish is asking hunters who harvest mule deer bucks in hunt areas 105, 106, 109, 121, 122 and 123 to submit samples to Game and Fish for testing. Hunters outside of this year’s focused surveillance areas can still submit a sample for testing.

Game and Fish will provide several training opportunities for hunters who want to learn how to collect their own lymph node sample for CWD testing from harvested deer. Hunters can learn how to take a sample by watching a how-to video on the Game and Fish website or by attending in-person trainings at the following locations:  

Sept. 23, Cody, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Cody Regional Office, 6 p.m.

Sept. 24, Powell, Northwest College, Science and Math Building, Room 247, 6 p.m.

Sept. 26, Lovell, Fire Hall, 6 p.m.

Hunters can also have animals sampled at any game check station this season or by stopping at the Cody Regional Office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Additional options for testing include Zero Box Quality Meats in Cody, a drop barrel for heads located in Powell at Northwest College on the south side of Science and Math Building at 6th and Division Streets, or by calling 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.

Game and Fish aims to collect samples from at least 200 adult mule deer bucks from both the Clarks Fork (hunt areas 105, 106 and 109) and the Shoshone (hunt areas 121, 122 and 123) herd units. 

Since 1997, the Wyoming Game and Fish has been monitoring the distribution and prevalence of CWD to better understand how this disease may affect the health of Wyoming’s deer and elk populations. Initial surveillance goals focused on the detection of CWD in new areas of the state along with monitoring the disease. This disease has now been identified in most deer hunt areas across Wyoming and necessitates a shift in focus of the program from detection to monitoring.

Continued monitoring of CWD over time is important to help Game and Fish understand the potential impacts of the disease as well as evaluate future management actions for deer and elk. This will be a challenge for Game and Fish, as collecting samples for valid estimates of prevalence requires large sample sizes in focused areas across the state. The Game and Fish Wildlife Health Laboratory has limited testing capacity to monitor CWD across the entire state, so focused sampling will rotate hunt areas each year.