By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
An elk in Grand Teton National Park has tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently announced.
The cow elk was harvested by a participant in the park’s elk reduction program and tissue samples were collected as part of the park’s mandatory testing program.
This is the first elk to test positive for CWD both in northwest Wyoming and in close proximity to elk feeding grounds.
There have been no cases of CWD in humans and no strong evidence that people can contract the disease. However, experimental studies raise the concern that CWD may pose a risk to humans and suggest as a result it is important to prevent human exposure.
Therefore, the Game and Fish Department and the National Park Service are adhering 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.
Wildlife managers said that while the positive test in an elk raises concern, the positive test result doesn’t come as a surprise based on the steady progression of the disease westward across the state and the positive result of CWD in a mule deer in the park in the fall of 2018.
Mule deer have also tested positive for CWD in Star Valley in 2016, in the Pinedale area in 2017 and in the Wyoming Range in 2020.
Intensive CWD surveillance of the Jackson elk herd has been ongoing since 2009.
Over 4,500 CWD samples have been collected and tested for the entire Jackson elk herd with more than 1,400 samples collected through the park’s elk reduction program alone. This is the first elk to test positive.
The positive test result for an elk in northwest Wyoming came as Game and Fish and partnering federal agencies recently began a public collaborative effort to discuss the future management of elk feedgrounds in Wyoming.
While Game and Fish is actively accepting public comment on state-managed elk feedgrounds through this public process, there is no plan to close any feedgrounds.