Game and Fish reviews draft CWD management plan

Jackson Region’s Brad Hovinga, left, listens as people ask questions at the Dec. 2 meeting.

Chronic wasting

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

page 4.

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

reasoning.

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.”

Artificial hotspots

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

slow.”

“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

field studies.

Education, disposal

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.

Regulatory

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.

To comment

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

https://wgfd.wyo.gov/get-involved/cwdworking-

group.

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