disease, or CWD, is known to be fatal
mainly to mule deer in Wyoming but concentrated
efforts to educate a wider audience
reveal a much more widespread problem –
white-tailed deer are dying from it as well.
Many eastern and midwestern states
with CWD have native white-tailed deer
herds along with “captive” cervids at agricultural
game farms, the Senate Committee
on Environment and Public Works learned
Wednesday from three witnesses. Chairman
Sen. John Barrasso welcomed Wyoming
Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik who
touted his agency and its recent CWD Working
Group process. See the related article on
Wyoming working group
On Monday, Dec. 2, Wyoming Game
and Fish hosted a public meeting in Pinedale
for comments and questions about its CWD
Working Group’s recommendations and recent
revision of the state’s 2016 management
plan. The 149-page draft CWD plan was released
Monday, giving attendees little time
to preview it.
With Pinedale their closest Game and
Fish meeting this week, people drove in
from Jackson, LaBarge, Dubois and from
around Sublette County. Many were on the
task force that met earlier this year to gather
input and form recommendations by consensus.
Nesvik appointed 32 people including
alternates to be on the team, with Jessica
Western leading the collaborative process
based on consensus.
Deputy Chief of Wildlife Scott Edberg
and Casper Public Information Officer Janet
Milek, also on the working group, ran the
Dec. 2 meeting in Western’s weather-related
absence. The group produced 40 recommendations
and seven “with major reservations,”
Milek said. She referred to the draft plan’s
Appendix C to show how Game and Fish
administration incorporated almost all the
recommendations and for those it didn’t, the
Game and Fish’s tissue-sample tests, both
voluntary and controlled, show “prime” buck
mule deer are more likely than does to get
the always fatal disease. Pronghorn apparently
do not get CWD unless deliberately
reinfected in experiments and all elk are less
likely to test positive. Very rarely, cases have
been found in moose.
Feedgrounds – later
The CWD Working Group did not address
Game and Fish’s 22 winter elk feedgrounds,
where no CWD is yet detected. Officials said
Monday a new working group formed in the
near future will study the “divisive” topic.
First, officials will decide if the same
working group process could apply to
feedground management, which “would be
Game and Fish reviews draft CWD management plan
By Joy Ufford, [email protected]
much more involved,” said Jackson’s Brad
Hovinga, possibly even site-specific. “We
want to be successful so we want to make
sure to have the best approach.”
He said of the draft plan, “Feedgrounds
are largely not addressed. We felt the
feedground issue is big enough and complex
enough to require a process of its own.”
The first recommendation is that “Game
and Fish takes action to reduce artificial
concentrations.” Some members had “major
reservations” but most agreed the Wyoming
Legislature should give Game and Fish
authority to regulate “intentional private
feeding of wild cervids unless otherwise
specified.” Consensus was reached for it to
“collaborate at local levels to reduce artificial
points of wild cervid concentration” and
work with local constituencies to eliminate
artificial feeding and reduce densities.
“Building and maintaining public support
is going to be very, very key for us,” said
Edberg of specific strategies that might arise
as management strategies are developed.
However, the group disagreed and did not
reach consensus about having public stakeholders
help evaluate feedgrounds – but that
did move to Game and Fish and is included
in the draft plan.
The possibility exists for hunters or staff
“culling” infected mule deer in a certain area,
according to Casper Disease Management
Supervisor Justin Binfet.
“(The plan) stresses over and over that
management actions we are looking at undertaking
here are going to be based on
the best available data,” he said. “We have
to implement strategies over the long term
because the progression of this disease is so
“Unnatural concentrations” or “hotspots”
of deer occur in parks, golf courses, private
land and “agricultural operations are probably
the most common form of artificial cervid
concentration,” Binfet said.
Another “no consensus” was to study
wildlife underpasses, overpasses, water
holes and feedgrounds for increasing prevalence.
It is incorporated into the draft plan for
Hunters are an essential tool to reduce
CWD prevalence in mule deer with possible
changes in hunting seasons or increased harvests
of mature bucks or does. Hunters are
advised of the potential dangers of CWD prions,
which can live in soil for 13 years and
grow with forage.
Game and Fish requires hunters to stop at
check stations so biologists can remove appropriate
samples to test at the state wildlife
laboratory; hunters are then notified up to
two weeks later if their animal had CWD.
Hunters are advised to wear rubber gloves
when harvesting animals that appear sick, although
most animals do not show signs of
CWD until near death. They’re advised to
not handle brain and spinal cord tissues and
to consider freezing the meat until CWD test
results are returned.
A new precaution is for hunters to disinfect
all steel – knives, saws or blades –
because CWD prions cling to the utensils
unless bathed in a 40-percent bleach solution
for at least five minutes.
The abnormal prions’ longevity cause
concerns for carcass disposal as well. Prions
are not killed by temperatures under 1,700º
Fahrenheit, nor by freezing.
But at this time, no humans have reported
to be stricken with CWD.
With state vehicles picking up roadkill
and hunters dumping carcasses usually at
landfills, Game and Fish, other state agencies,
solid waste operators and county commissioners
meet in Casper on Dec. 17 to
search for solutions.
Wyoming has strict laws about transporting,
exporting or importing harvested cervids
but does not require hunters to submit sample
tissues, leaving it voluntary. Game and
Fish does not plan to offer refunds or new
tags for hunters with a CWD-infected animal
under the draft plan.
After public comments are reviewed, the
Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will
vote on the Draft Wyoming Game and Fish
Chronic Wasting Disease Plan at its March
or April meeting.
Public comment is accepted through
Sunday, Jan. 15, and people are asked to
write out and submit them by mail or email.
For more information or to comment, visit