LARAMIE — Deer and elk hunters contribute significantly to wildlife conservation efforts, but the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asking them to do more this hunting season.
“We are asking hunters to do two things that they may not have done in the past,” says Bob Lanka, Laramie regional wildlife coordinator. “If hunters plan to participate in chronic wasting disease (CWD) surveillance, they should carefully document the harvest location. If they hunt in areas known to have CWD, they should leave the head, spine and other nervous tissue at the site of the kill or dispose of them in an approved landfill.”
The requests come on the heels of research recently completed in Colorado. One study indicates intact carcasses of deer that die of CWD, may spread the disease to healthy deer. Another suggests CWD is found within family groups, or herds of deer that band together.
“Researchers are looking, but they don’t know all of the potential routes of CWD transmission,” continues Lanka. “We can’t stop CWD in its tracks, but we are doing what we can. Intensifying communication efforts so that hunters recognize they might be able to help reduce the spread of CWD, is one thing we can do.”
“Regulations making it a crime to transport certain deer parts from one place to another have been tried in other states. These states have found that these regulations are practically unenforceable,” says Steve DeCecco, Green River regional wildlife supervisor. “We believe hunters, as some of the key contributors to wildlife, will be willing to voluntarily follow our recommendations because of their concern for the resource.”
The G&F is recommending that deer and elk hunters transport only the following items from areas where CWD is know to exist: cut and wrapped meat, boned meat, animal quarters or other pieces with no portion of the spinal column or head attached, hides without the head, cleaned skull plates (no meat or nervous tissue attached), antlers with no meat or other tissue attached. The head, spine, and other nervous tissue should be left at the site of the kill or disposed of in an approved landfill.
The G&F is trying to follow-up on the other study by soliciting more exact location data from hunters. “In order for us to get a better understanding of the distribution of this disease, we need hunters to provide us with accurate harvest locations. Hunters can provide a tremendous amount of help by saving harvest locations on their GPS or providing a legal description such as range, township and section. With more information on disease distribution, we may be able to use a couple of different techniques to determine how well the disease is established in a particular area, and perhaps develop management techniques to reduce prevalence,” says Hank Edwards, a wildlife disease specialist in charge of testing and mapping CWD data.
The G&F will continue to do statewide CWD surveillance this fall. Employees will be collecting lymph nodes at many of the locations used last year.
“Our focus this year will be on collecting quality data,” says Edwards. “We will decrease efforts in areas that have had CWD for a number of years, and increase efforts around the leading edge.”