Editorial:

Join the fight against chronic wasting disease: Have your deer tested

Posted 11/12/19

As hunters continue working to fill their freezers for the winter, Wyoming Game and Fish is asking for help in keeping herds around the Big Horn Basin healthy for generations to come.

The culprit …

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Editorial:

Join the fight against chronic wasting disease: Have your deer tested

Posted

As hunters continue working to fill their freezers for the winter, Wyoming Game and Fish is asking for help in keeping herds around the Big Horn Basin healthy for generations to come.

The culprit posing a risk to Wyoming’s deer population? Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, a deadly pathogen that is fatal to ungulates like deer and elk. And it’s not just Wyoming that’s seeing the effects of the rapidly spreading disease: 24 states have reported CWD infections, as have multiple Canadian provinces, Norway, Finland and South Korea, according to the Washington Post.

A cure for CWD does not yet exist and experts are concerned that deer infected with the disease may not be suitable for consumption. To that end, Game and Fish is working diligently to find how prevalent the disease is in the Powell area. More than 40 percent of herds near Worland are infected with CWD, and that’s getting awfully close to home.

And that’s where our local hunters come in. Game and Fish has partnered with the biology department at Northwest College in an effort to test a higher percentage of harvested mule deer from the Lower Shoshone and Clark Fork herds.

Game and Fish has also set up hunter check stations across the basin in an attempt to track the spread of the disease. Samples are taken from lymph nodes in the heads of harvested deer, and hunters are strongly encouraged to drop off the heads of their harvest at one of these check stations or at the NWC campus.

“With this new CWD effort, certainly we have more check stations this year than we’ve had in a long time,” Corey Class, the basin’s wildlife management coordinator, told the Tribune last week. “To be successful, we absolutely need help from hunters.”

But despite the efforts to educate local hunters on the importance of getting their deer tested, traffic at the check stations remains slow.

“One of the tough parts is, no matter how many places we put out check stations, a lot of hunters out here are local and they take [their deer] home, missing the stations,” Class said. “It’s tough for us to have a station near everybody’s house — especially for those who harvest deer on their own property.”

The elephant in the room is CWD’s effect, if any, on humans; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to find any evidence of chronic wasting disease in people, despite actively looking for it. That said, monkeys fed CWD-infected meat in a lab did develop the disease; CWD is also related to mad cow disease, according to the CDC, which has proved fatal in humans.

The bottom line is the more researchers can discover about CWD and how it spreads, the better off our deer populations will be, as well as our hunters who harvest them. Please help by having your harvest sampled, either at a Game and Fish check station or at the NWC campus. Have a safe and successful hunting season!

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