CHEYENNE — Hunters have long been considered an invaluable resource for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s efforts to collect biological samples for study and testing. This fall elk hunters in select hunt areas are again being asked to collect blood samples from their harvested animal to help in the department’s brucellosis surveillance efforts. Brucellosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Brucella abortus. Elk, bison and domestic cattle are susceptible to brucellosis, which may cause animals to abort calves and further transmit the disease.
Hunters in targeted elk hunt areas for the 2022 season are asked to help in data collection by taking a blood sample from their elk immediately after harvest with a Game and Fish sample kit, keeping it cool and submitting it soon-after harvest. The targeted elk hunt areas are: 27, 28, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 45, 47, 48, 49, 54, 61, 63, 64, 66, 100, 106, 107, 120, 127. A map is available online.
About 8,500 kits will be mailed to hunters this year. Hunters in targeted elk hunt areas should receive kits about two weeks prior to the opening date of that particular hunt area and license type.
“You may have already — or will soon — receive a blood kit in the mail. Please bring this kit with you while hunting and collect a sample from your harvested animal and submit it to us. Take the sample soon after harvest and keep it cool until drop-off,” said Eric Maichak, Game and Fish wildlife disease biologist in the Cody Region.
Nearly one-quarter of the state is surveyed yearly on a rotating basis. Each fall hunters return between 1,200-1,500 blood samples to the laboratory. Game and Fish hasn’t identified any seropositive elk in the Bighorn Mountains since 2016.
For 2022 the surveillance area targets hunt areas within and around the Wyoming Livestock Board’s designated surveillance area, as well as the entirety of the Bighorn Mountains.
Hunters are urged to wear latex/nitrile gloves, keep the sample cool in a chilled cooler and not allow it to freeze or spoil. Fill out the requested information on the enclosed card and return the kit to a biologist or game warden in the field, at a check station, Game and Fish office or drop the prepaid box with the sample in the mail. Learn how to collect a sample through a short video.
Hunters who don’t harvest an elk this year should not mail back an empty kit.
“Save the blood kit for your next year’s hunt or return it unused to a Game and Fish office or official,” said Jessica Jennings-Gaines, Game and Fish wildlife disease specialist.
Brucellosis has been shown to slightly reduce pregnancy rates but not limit the population size of elk. Usable data collected by hunters coupled with GPS data from radio-collared elk are being used to develop projects to mitigate brucellosis transmission risk among elk and from elk to livestock.
As an incentive for hunters to collect samples, the department is partnering with several leading outdoor gear companies in a raffle for hunters who provide a useable blood sample from their harvested elk. Hunters with multiple licenses may receive a kit for each and can enter the raffle for each usable sample returned.