Game and Fish tracking deer, pronghorn disease


LARAMIE — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced earlier this month that it’s tracking outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in white-tailed deer and pronghorn in eastern Wyoming. 

Samples from dead deer and pronghorn confirmed outbreaks near Laramie, Cheyenne, Douglas, and multiple spots in northeast Wyoming. The disease is carried by a midge that lives around small water sources, where wildlife congregate during hot weather and drought periods. 

Hank Edwards, who supervises the department’s Wildlife Health Laboratory in Wyoming, said wildlife managers see the disease every year in big game, but some years are worse than others.

“This year seems worse, but we are just at the beginning of the outbreak,” he said. “Monitoring will be important to chart the impacts.” 

Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, also called EHD, is spread when a host animal with the virus is bitten by a midge, which then spreads it to others. 

“The midge collects a ‘blood meal,” like a mosquito,” Edwards said. “When the midge bites another animal, the virus spreads.”

The public can view a map of identified locations and learn more about EHD on the Game and Fish website at Wildlife-Disease/Wildlife-Disease-Information. 

The map represents lab-confirmed distribution but not intensity, as the lab won’t continue to sample areas where the presence of EHD has been documented. 

Near Laramie, EHD was confirmed in a pronghorn on Aug. 31 near U.S. Highway 287 north of Tie Siding and on Sept. 9 in a pronghorn near Wyoming Highway 230 southwest of Laramie.

EHD is typically seen in the fall, as warm, dry weather continues to dry up water sources. Not all animals exposed to the virus will die, and some will develop immunity. The disease tends to ebb and flow within deer and pronghorn herds, and the first hard frost usually kills off the midge populations. 

According to the department, hunters should be aware of EHD, but humans and pets are not at risk of contracting the disease.

Meanwhile, Game and Fish continues to track the prevalence of chronic wasting disease across the state. As part of its recently adopted CWD management plan, the department is focusing its monitoring efforts on specific herd units on a five-year rotating schedule. 

Spokesman Robin Kepple said the department can’t reach its own monitoring goals without help from hunters. 

“We really need the public’s cooperation on this to meet these quotas and provide these samples, so our scientists can learn more about the disease,” she said. 

Hunt areas near Laramie from which the department is collecting lymph node samples include mule deer hunt areas 61 and 74-77 as well as elk hunt areas 13-15, 21, 108 and 130.

Edwards said samples from harvested deer and elk are critical for monitoring CWD in Wyoming’s deer and elk populations, and monitoring efforts will drive future management actions.

“The disease doesn’t occur uniformly across the landscape,” he said. 

To prevent the spread of CWD, hunters should follow Game and Fish guidelines for transporting and disposing of deer, elk and moose carcasses, which can be viewed on the department’s website. 

Hunters can submit samples for testing from any part of the state, and samples can be taken at check stations and regional offices. Results are usually available online within three weeks. Expedited results are available for a $30 fee. Call the state vet lab at 766-9925 for more information.