Wildlife officials confirmed Wednesday that a mule deer in Grand Teton National Park tested positive for chronic wasting disease becoming the first confirmed case of the disease in the park and in Teton County, Wyo.
The adult buck had been struck by a vehicle and tissue samples were sent to the Wyoming Game and Fish laboratory by park officials.
“The positive test result does not come as a surprise based on recent positive results for mule deer in Star Valley, (Wyo.) and Pinedale, (Wyo.) in 2017,” Denise Germann, park public information officer said in a news release. “Recent migration research has shown that some mule deer that summer in Grand Teton National Park spend winters to the east near Dubois, (Wyo.) and Cody, (Wyo.) which have both had deer that have tested positive for (chronic wasting disease) in recent years.”
The park has been testing animals since 2009. The process includes sending tissue samples to the Game and Fish labs for deer, elk and moose found dead or harvested. Wyoming Game and Fish tested 3,882 samples throughout the state for the disease in 2017, an significant increase from years past.
“The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton National Park are concerned about CWD and how it may affect the future of Wyoming’s deer,” Germann said. “The disease is fatal to deer, elk and moose.”
The prevalence of CWD on the borders of Idaho has prompted Idaho Fish and Game officials to step up its testing and surveillance in the past year, especially at the borders.
“I can’t tell you when it’s going to show up but there’s a strong chance that it will in fact show up. Sooner than later,” said Matt Pieron, Idaho Fish and Game wildlife biologist.
Pieron said research has shown that mule deer winter in southeast Idaho and migrate to Jackson Hole, Wyo., during the summer.
In the past two years, Wyoming Game and Fish has increased surveillance for the disease at the elk feeding grounds by adding additional personnel. While the disease has yet to be found among elk, officials believe CWD “is likely to arrive in elk at the feedgrounds at some point in the future,” she said.
Although the disease has not been shown to be transmitted to humans, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that deer, elk or moose testing positive for CWD should not be eaten.
A map showing areas where CWD has been found in Wyoming is available at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Wildlife-in-Wyoming/More-Wildlife/Wildlife-Disease/CWD-in-Wyoming-Wildlife/CWD-Map.