This year Wyoming and several other states and a Canadian province joined together to start a chronic wasting disease research project that could show if hunting helps control CWD. This prion disease affects deer, elk and moose. CWD is always fatal and studies have shown that it can contribute to population declines among deer in Wyoming.
“The analysis will look at aspects like intensity — the proportions of the buck and doe harvest in a population — the timing of harvest and hunting season structures,” said Mary Wood, Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife veterinarian. “The goal is to identify if these factors improve or limit disease prevalence or if some practices contribute to increased spread of CWD.”
CWD was discovered in Wyoming more than 30 years ago and has been studied and monitored since. A recent $92,500 collaborative research grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has enabled Game and Fish and other wildlife agencies to analyze decades of CWD data along with hunting management data from key areas around the West — and much of that data has been contributed by hunters. Wildlife agencies in multiple states and provinces are providing hunter and CWD data from at least the last 10 years in the areas of each state or province most impacted by CWD.
Wyoming’s participation in the two-year study makes sense given the information collected through research and on-the-ground monitoring during the past three decades. In cooperation with other researchers, Game and Fish has evaluated vaccines, considered genetics, assisted with validation of diagnostic tests and gathered more than 30 years of data on where and how CWD has spread.
“We have a lot of data that could be valuable, but we need the time and focus to analyze it, and this grant helps us do that,” Wood said.
(Photo source: Wyoming Game and Fish Department)