Based on hunter-harvested samples, Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department estimates a prevalence rate of chronic wasting disease in the North Bighorns elk herd of just over 3 percent.
Based on those findings, no management actions for the disease have been implemented for the herd at this time.
The North Bighorns elk herd, consisting of elk hunt areas 35 through 40, were originally scheduled for priority chronic wasting disease sampling this year, but Game and Fish personnel estimated enough hunter-harvested samples were collected during the 2018 to 2020 hunting seasons to obtain an adequate sample size.
Test results identified seven positive elk in two hunt areas – Areas 35 and 37. Both elk hunt areas overlap deer hunt areas, and chronic wasting disease has been documented in mule deer and white-tailed deer in those areas.
Tim Thomas, who’s a Sheridan Region wildlife biologist, said Game and Fish personnel plan to prioritize the North Bighorns elk herd for sampling in 2027. At that time, he said, the department will implement protocols to improve equitable sampling across all hunt areas.
The Game and Fish Department’s chronic wasting disease surveillance program shifted focus in 2019, from monitoring distribution and spread of the disease to concentrated focus on selected deer and elk herds in each administrative region of the state. Personnel make efforts to collect a minimum of 200 tissue samples from harvested animals in each selected herd, which produces a reliable estimate of prevalence rather than simply the presence of the disease in an area.