Cheyenne— A three-year-old female moose has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in western Wyoming. CWD is a fatal neurological disease of deer, elk, and moose that affects the brain, causing weight loss, abnormal behavior, and, eventually, death. There is no evidence that CWD has any human-health implications.
“This finding was a very big surprise, said Wyoming Game and Fish Department Wildlife Disease Specialist Hank Edwards.”Number one, because this is the first CWD-positive moose we have ever found in Wyoming. And number two, because this moose was in an area that is a significant distance from any other known CWD areas.”
The animal was found approximately two miles south of Bedford, Wyoming, and showed no clinical signs of CWD, which include loss of body condition, excessive drooling, and drooping ears and head. It was unable to stand up but was in very good nutritional condition.
Testing at the WGFD laboratory in Laramie determined this animal had elaeophorosis (arterial worm disease), which accounted for its inability to stand. According to Edwards, mule deer are the normal host for elaeophorosis, where it does not cause serious disease. Elaeophorosis is rarely seen in elk, but can cause significant disease in moose. Additional testing by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory confirmed that the moose also tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease. Based on laboratory tests and lack of clinical sign, Edwards said this animal was in the early stages of CWD.
Though CWD has been found in deer and elk in many parts of Wyoming and other states, it is extremely rare in moose. Only three other wild moose in North America have tested positive for the disease, all of them in Colorado.
As a result of this finding, the Game and Fish will increase CWD surveillance activities in this region of Wyoming. According to WGFD Jackson Region Wildlife Supervisor Tim Fuchs: “We will immediately begin to gear up our CWD surveillance in the Star Valley. We plan on enlisting hunters in that area to help us by submitting their animals for CWD testing. To do this, we are establishing check stations throughout the region, and through news releases and other media we’ll be letting hunters know we need their help.”
WGFD personnel collect and analyze more than 4,000 CWD samples annually throughout the state.
“There are no methods that have been proven effective in stopping the expansion of CWD, although a number of things have been tried in other states,” said WGFD Director Steve Ferrell. “Recent research in Wisconsin and Colorado has shown us that large-scale culling of animals is ineffective in stopping the spread of the disease or reducing its prevalence. Currently, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is monitoring the disease, conducting various research projects to understand more about CWD, and educating the public on the presence of the disease and what it means for wildlife and people. The department is committed to using the tools we do have and the best available science to manage this disease in a manner that makes sense for the wildlife and people of Wyoming.”
For more information about CWD in Wyoming, visit the WGFD website.
For more information about CWD in North America, visit the CWD Alliance website at: https://cwd-info.org/.