In order to address continued concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has updated their nearly decade old CWD Management Plan and released a draft for public comment. CWD, a fatal, transmissible neurological disease of deer, elk, and moose, poses a clear threat that could dramatically affect wildlife in Jackson Hole.
Because of new research and data on the disease and in part through the work of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and the Alliance, the WGFD took the opportunity to update the plan in many effective ways, including continuing the prohibition of cervid (deer and elk) ownership in Wyoming, acquiring and protecting winter habitats and migration corridors, and placing new restrictions on the transportation and disposal of diseased carcasses. You can read a draft of the WGFD’s plan here.
While the updated plan is a positive step, the WGFD should take this opportunity to go further and develop a more proactive plan to mitigate and better manage this disease’s impact on wildlife.
Specifically, the plan should more explicitly outline objectives for managing disease risks and specific actions that can be implemented to do so. The only objectives addressed in the plan are providing flexible and adaptable direction for the management of the disease and stating that eradication is not a realistic objective. Maintaining flexibility in managing diseases is important, but the WGFD can identify more specific objectives without sacrificing adaptability and flexibility. For instance, specific objectives could focus on reducing the spread of the disease, and reducing prevalence or impact on wildlife populations.
In addition, an adaptive plan should explicitly identify triggers and proactive actions to better mitigate and manage the disease. Further, because this disease impacts wildlife and lands across jurisdictions, a key aspect of the plan should be improving coordination at all levels with federal agencies and advocating for continued research.
With these additional steps the CWD Management Plan would be strengthened and would better equip our wildlife managers with the tools necessary to address the risks posed by the disease.
The Alliance, along with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, submitted comments on the issue you can read in full here.