Elk NetworkCWD Prevalence Increasing in Wyoming’s Deer, Elk Herds

General | August 18, 2023

New statistics linked to chronic wasting disease (CWD) spell tough news for Wyoming’s deer and elk populations. A 2022 CWD surveillance report shows the disease infected 34 of the state’s 37 mule deer herds and nearly half of its 36 elk herds. The prevalence rate in one mule deer herd shows 65 percent of its bucks are infected.

“Because CWD positive animals only live two years, the average age of the herd slowly shifts to those younger animals and older animals become rare,” said Hank Edwards, Wyoming Game & Fish Department’s wildlife health laboratory supervisor, according to the Rocket Miner. “Obviously, since females are the foundation of the herd, as prevalence increases and more females become infected, the reproduction, growth and resilience of the herd is constrained.”

CWD is an always-fatal nervous system disease found in deer, elk and moose. It can be transmitted through direct animal to animal contact, contact with saliva, feces, carcass parts of an infected animal, and through contaminated soil. To date, it has been found in wild or captive cervids in 30 states and five Canadian provinces.

(Photo credit: Wyoming Game & Fish Department)