Yellowstone National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) have made a troubling discovery – the presence of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in an adult mule deer buck near Yellowstone Lake. This marks the first confirmed case of CWD in the famous national park.
The deer’s journey begins in March of this year, when it was captured near Cody, Wyoming for a population dynamics study and fitted with a GPS collar. Sadly, the collar indicated that the animal died in mid-October. Yellowstone and WGFD later located the carcass on the Promontory, a landmass separating the South and Southeast arms of Yellowstone Lake. Samples were collected and sent for testing at WGFD’s Wildlife Health Laboratory, which confirmed the presence of CWD.
Yellowstone National Park staff are now taking immediate action to manage the disease. This includes increasing collaboration and information sharing with WGFD and other state agencies, intensifying monitoring efforts for CWD in other deer, elk, and moose within the park, as well as stepping up the investigation of carcasses and sample collection for testing.
Chronic wasting disease is a contagious and fatal disease that affects deer, elk, and moose. Unfortunately, there is currently no known treatment or vaccine for the disease. It is primarily transmitted through direct animal-to-animal contact or indirect contact with infectious particles in the environment.
CWD has been spreading across Wyoming since the mid-1980s and has become widespread in the state. Shockingly, it is estimated that about 10-15% of the mule deer that migrate into the southeast portion of Yellowstone from Cody during the summer months already have CWD. The long-term effects of the disease on the deer, elk, and moose in the Yellowstone area remain uncertain.
As CWD poses a significant threat, visitors to the park are advised to be vigilant and aware of the signs of the disease. These signs can include listlessness, weight loss, increased drinking and urinating, excessive drooling, and head lowering.
This new development serves as a stark reminder of the importance of preserving and protecting our wild ecosystems. The collaboration between Yellowstone National Park and the WGFD is crucial in managing this disease and ensuring the health and stability of the park’s wildlife population. Continued monitoring and research efforts will be vital in understanding the full impact of CWD in the Yellowstone area.
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