THERMOPOLIS – Two mule deer collected from hunt area 37 near the Bighorn River have tested positive for chronic Wasting Disease, the third new CWD positive hunt area discovery in the Thermopolis area this fall.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department began collecting additional deer samples Nov. 16 after a sick deer near the Wedding of the Waters in hunt area 120 tested positive for CWD.
According to Cody Wildlife Supervisor Gary Brown, this is the first time management action aimed at determining the extent of CWD in an area resulted in identifying a new CWD area. “We collected 28 mule deer from within a one-mile radius of the sick deer’s location in adjacent hunt area 37 south of Thermopolis and two does tested positive for CWD,” he said.
Brown stated that since that time, an emaciated buck mule deer in area 120 southwest of Thermopolis also tested positive for CWD.
According to Brown, the department will collect an additional 22 deer south of Thermopolis in hunt area 120 beginning Dec 1. “When CWD was first discovered in hunt area 120 in early November, our initial management action followed the protocol outlined in our draft Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan,” Brown said. “We increased hunter surveillance and wanted to collect up to 50 additional samples; we were successful in collecting 28 samples from hunt area 37. We chose not to collect deer from area 120 during the firearms season, however, now that the season has ended we plan to collect the remainder of our sample.”
The additional 22 samples to be collected by agency personnel will be used to provide an idea of the prevalence of the disease in the area. According to Brown, there are no plans to collect additional deer in hunt area 37.
Brown said the department has received several telephone calls regarding the relationship between the “scruffy” appearance of some deer within the city limits of Thermopolis and CWD. “While it is possible a few deer in Thermopolis may have CWD, it is more likely that the scruffy look is the result of the private feeding of deer,” Brown said.
Private feeding of deer concentrates deer and may locally concentrate the environmental contamination associated with the chronic wasting disease agent.
Chronic wasting disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy of the deer family. Although there are concerns by some people that CWD could be a livestock or human health threat, there is currently no evidence of a link between CWD and any human illness or livestock disease.
Over the past three years, targeted and hunter surveillance, and agency take has accounted for more than 1,800 samples being collected and tested from the Big Horn Basin, resulting in nine confirmed positives.
For more information on chronic wasting disease visit the Game and Fish Web site.