Chronic wasting disease threat calls for public collaboration

Joy Ufford photo The audience splits into six groups to brainstorm as Game and Fish managers write down questions and suggestions.

As chronic

wasting disease spreads toward the northwestern

corner of Wyoming, audiences of

wildlife watchers, biologists, hunters, outfitters

and conservationists are listening and

thinking.

Wyoming Game and Fish is sponsoring

the first round of public workshops about

the complexities of managing CWD, which

is fatal mainly to mule deer and can infect

other cervid species suck as elk and moose.

On Tuesday, June 4, Game and Fish wildlife

biologists and managers gave updates on

what is known thus far about CWD, which

in mule deer is caused by a damaged “abnormally

unfolded” protein, or prion, that

eventually affects the entire nervous system

and brain. These prions are nearly indestructible

and are shed by infected animals’ urine,

feces, saliva and blood into the ground where

they can be taken by in plant roots, leaves

and stems.

The Wyoming Game and Fish CWD

Working Group and CWD Management

Team are looking for potential long-term

solutions, cures and experiments to minimize

its spread. Other states have done the

same but without much hard data to show

and share, according to Mary Wood.

One aspect is that as of now, it is not believed

humans are in danger from CWD-infected

animals – but there are warnings to

handle a carcass safely with gloves.

Facilitated by Jessica Western of the

Ruckelshaus Institute, after known information

was shared, people split into groups to

brainstorm with the goal of being “issued

based, not position based,” she said.

“This is a very complex disease which is

why we (have) a collaborative process,” she

said. “Game and Fish is not going to tell you

this is going to be resolved very quickly. It

will take awhile at least to get it controlled.

Elimination of this disease is unlikely if not

impossible.”

More public workshops are set for Lander

and Casper; Western said she already has

more than 300 comments in 23 categories

from Laramie, Casper and Worland workshops.

After an internal review where that group

seriously considers management solutions,

Game and Fish will release its draft CWD

management plan for another round of public

workshops. The one in Pinedale is set for

Dec. 2.

To watch the complete CWD public workshop

in Laramie, for more information or to

submit comments, go to https://wgfd.wyo.

gov/Get-Involved/CWD-Working-Group#-

publicMeeting.

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