Chronic wasting disease: My perspective

Over the last few years, as the concern surrounding the impact of Chronic Wasting Disease has increased, we as outfitters and hunters are left searching for answers on how to deal with the impacts of CWD. There is no known cure for the disease which makes it a grave threat to infected herds of deer and elk.

So, what can be done, and what is being done? In 2019 I was asked to be a part of a CWD working group made up of public members. This group held a series of five public meetings in hopes of using input from the working group and the public to generate ideas and recommendations. Those recommendations would, in turn, be submitted to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department in an effort to aid with a CWD Management Plan moving forward. I gained a wealth of knowledge from these meetings and feel like the ideas that were generated will be beneficial for the Wyoming Game & Fish as they attempt to tackle one of the biggest challenges they face.

My family and I have had first-hand experience with CWD. In the fall of 2014, my son was finally old enough to hunt big game in Wyoming. Gavin harvested a healthy-looking yearling Mule Deer buck on the last day of the season and we were all very excited for him. On the way back home Gavin and my husband stopped at a Wyoming Game & Fish checkpoint where they were asked by a biologist if they could cut out a lymph node to have tested for CWD. They told the biologist to go ahead, thinking nothing of it as the deer showed no signs or symptoms of being sick. A week later we received a letter from WGF explaining that Gavin’s deer had in fact tested positive for CWD. It was a shock to all of us and it was the first Mule Deer in that unit to test positive. The question then became one which will continue to plague hunters, is it safe to eat? Should we eat it? When an animal you harvest does test positive the Game and Fish gives the hunter the option to dispose of the carcass legally without having to keep edible portions. Even though there have never been any documented cases of CWD being passed on to humans we elected to be safe and for peace of mind decided to dispose of the carcass in an approved landfill. Although his first experience hunting was one that ended with a CWD infected deer it has not stopped us or him from hunting mule deer since then.

As Office Manager at SNS Outfitter and Guides, I get asked often about chronic wasting disease. My answer to those questions and concerns is this, CWD is an issue. I recommend that whenever possible have your deer or elk tested as this does two things. First and foremost, it can provide peace of mind when eating the meat we all love so much. Secondly, the data obtained is very beneficial to the Game & Fish Department as they track the spread of CWD and the impact it is having on local herds. As outfitters, hunters and conservationists we feel very strongly in supporting these efforts. We feel the wildlife in the State of Wyoming is one of the states greatest treasurers and one that is worth doing all we can to ensure its long-term health and stability.