CWD detection in Wyoming Range

Chronic wasting disease has been discovered in Wyoming deer hunting unit 152, pictured, which borders Jackson and stretches south into the Wyoming and Gros Ventre ranges. 

A lethal ungulate sickness that is inexorably expanding westward across Wyoming has officially infected a famous population of mule deer that grow to trophy proportions in the Wyoming Range.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent word Wednesday afternoon that chronic wasting disease, or CWD, was confirmed early this week in a mule deer buck that was shot by a hunter Sept. 16 in the Willow Creek drainage south of Hoback Junction.

The hunter whose deer turned up positive for the infectious prion disease evidently came in from Greys River Road, because the animal’s lymph nodes were extracted by a Game and Fish staffer at the Alpine hunter check station.

“It is certainly unfortunate, however, it’s not unexpected,” Game and Fish Regional Supervisor Brad Hovinga said.

Although deer hunting unit 152, where the buck was killed, is technically in the Wyoming Range, the herd that uses that portion of the Bridger-Teton National Forest is known as the Sublette Herd.

Chronic wasting disease is not entirely foreign to the area, but it is in the early stages of afflicting deer and elk in the Snake River watershed. A mule deer found dead in 2016 clear on the other side of the Wyoming and Salt ranges near Star Valley Ranch tested positive for CWD. Another infected animal was discovered near Pinedale the following year.

The incurable condition, which can persist outside animal hosts in grasses and soil, officially reached Jackson Hole last fall, turning up in a road-killed mule deer found near Kelly.

A human has never contracted CWD, but eating meat from animals infected with CWD is not advised.

The deer hunting season in the hunt area where the infected animal was found goes through Saturday.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

(6) comments

Kristi Lloyd

To slow the spread of CWD stop feedings at the Nat'l Elk Farm and stop the willy nilly "hunting" of predators.

Lanny Lammers

BS I reported a Cow Elk with CWD in Oct 2010 Just between Elk Refuge Feed Grounds & the first hill on the road going up Curtis Canyon in the middle of 200 Elk as itvwas spinning wobbily in circles even after I chased the herd back onto the Feed Area.

I know the Refuge people came when I reported because I waited to see if they came.

Eric Cole

As the biologist at the National Elk Refuge I have personally euthanized 2 elk that exhibited the spinning symptoms that you described. In both cases lymph node samples were submitted to the Wyoming State Veterinary lab for CWD testing and both came back negative. Not all elk exhibiting neurological symptoms such as the spinning that you described have chronic wasting disease (in fact most don't). The National Elk Refuge, WGFD, and other agencies sample hundreds of elk each year from the Jackson Elk Herd for CWD, and to date no elk have come back positive. Some mule deer within the bounds of the Jackson Elk Herd definitely have CWD, but so far there is no evidence that elk have contracted it or that elk are passing it on to mule deer. When CWD does infect the Jackson Elk Herd, it will be much more likely that elk contract it from deer rather than the other way around.

Kristi Lloyd

So the area bordering the Elk Refuge has an infected mule deer. Shocking. Keep on feeding those elk in the Natl Elk Farm and keep spreading the disease. Brilliant. More brilliance...killing predators willy nilly. CWD is going to end elk hunting in WY and the hunters will have no one else to blame. Well, they will try to blame F&G but it will be on the hunters, being the great conservationists they claim to be (cough cough). Sad that so much wildlife suffers the most at the hands who claim to love wildlife so much - that they have to kill it one way or another.

Elisa San Souci

Anyone know what steps you take to test your animal - harvest lymph nodes to get tested, any other aspect of the animal? Thanks.

Rebecca Huntington Staff
Rebecca Huntington

Hi Elisa. Here's advice from Wyoming Game and Fish Department:

Welcome to the discussion.

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