Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed in Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) have recently announced the discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in an adult mule deer buck. The deer was found in the southeastern region of the park, confirming the presence of this concerning and fatal illness.
The mule deer buck was initially captured near Cody, Wyoming, as part of a research project on population dynamics. Equipped with a GPS collar, the animal was later discovered dead in October 2023. Yellowstone staff, in collaboration with the WGFD, located the carcass on the Promontory and collected samples for testing. Unfortunately, the results from the WGFD’s Wildlife Health Laboratory confirmed the presence of CWD.
In response to this discovery, Yellowstone staff will be working closely with the WGFD and other state agencies to identify areas within the park that are at increased risk for CWD. They will also aim to strengthen collaboration and information sharing in order to effectively mitigate the spread of the disease.
To further monitor the presence of CWD, the park will increase surveillance efforts on deer, elk, and moose populations. Additionally, the investigation of carcasses and collection of samples for testing will be prioritized in an effort to better understand the situation.
CWD is a fatal disease that affects deer, elk, and moose. Caused by a malformed protein known as a prion, there is currently no known cure or vaccine for this devastating illness. It is transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or indirect exposure to infectious particles in the environment, such as feces, soil, or vegetation.
Since the mid-1980s, CWD has been spreading across Wyoming and is now prevalent in most parts of the state. Shockingly, it is estimated that approximately 10-15% of mule deer migrating into the southeastern portion of Yellowstone from Cody, Wyoming during the summer months are affected by CWD.
The long-term impact of CWD on the deer, elk, and moose populations in the Yellowstone area remains uncertain. Therefore, it is crucial for park visitors to heed the guidance provided by Yellowstone staff and refrain from approaching or feeding wildlife. By doing so, the risk of disease transmission can be minimized.
Yellowstone National Park and the WGFD will continue to monitor the situation closely and take necessary measures to safeguard the park’s wildlife and prevent the further spread of CWD.
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