JACKSON, Wyo. (KIFI/KIDK)-Wyoming Game and Fish biologists have confirmed chronic wasting disease in an elk in Grand Teton National Park. The state’s Wildlife Health Laboratory confirmed the finding December 16.
The cow elk was harvested by a hunter participating in the park’s elk reduction program. Tissue samples were collected as part of the park’s mandatory testing program. It is the first elk to test positive for CWD in northwest Wyoming and in close proximity to the National Elk Refuge and other elk feedgrounds.
Wildlife managers say that while the positive test in an elk raises concern, the positive test result does not come as a surprise based on the steady progression of the disease westward across the state and the positive result for a mule deer in Grand Teton National Park in the fall of 2018. A mule deer also tested positive for CWD in Star Valley in 2016, the Pinedale area in 2017, and two mule deer in the Wyoming Range in 2020.
Game and Fish said it has been undertaking intensive surveillance of the Jackson elk herd since 2009. Over 4,500 CWD samples have been collected and tested. More than 1,400 samples have been collected through the elk reduction program alone. This is the first elk to test positive.
State, federal and other agencies within the Jackson and Greater Yellowstone area will continue to coordinate on efforts to address CWD.
The positive test result comes as Game and Fish is in the process of a collaborative effort to discuss future management of elk feed grounds in Wyoming. The department stresses that there is no plan to close any feed grounds at this time.
A map of CWD endemic areas is available here.
To date, there have been no cases of CWD in humans and no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people. There are some experimental students that raise concern that CWD may pose a risk to humans and that it is important to prevent human exposure.
That is why Game and Fish and the National Park Service adhere to the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization that hunters not consume any animal that is obviously ill or tests positive for CWD.