The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met in Powell for their November meeting. At the meeting, the Commission voted to approve $560,000 for ten projects to support mule deer populations across Wyoming. These are habitat and migration projects developed through the Statewide Mule Deer Initiative. This funding advances the initiative that has been ongoing for over a decade. The projects slated for the coming year would benefit nine herds of mule deer and improve 1.2 million acres.
The Commission continued discussions about employee housing in Teton County, directing the department to begin a multi-step approach to develop housing options and continue collaboration with other state agencies. The Commission recognized the need to maintain a Game and Fish presence in Jackson.
The Commission also heard updates on progress to acquire land and construct a new regional office in Cody. An architectural firm, Plan One, has been selected to do the design work for a facility that will best serve citizens and wildlife in the Bighorn Basin.
The Commission voted to approve special antelope hunt applications for the Women’s Antelope Hunt and the One-Shot Antelope Hunt for three years. In April, both groups will return before the Commission to request licenses for specific hunt areas. Up to 80 licenses per organizations are allocated for special antelope hunts annually.
Game and Fish updated the Commission on the chronic wasting disease surveillance. This year’s hunting season surveillance focuses on targeted areas throughout the state. To date, Game and Fish has collected 3,414 samples, with 353 CWD positive. Three new deer areas have been identified as CWD positive this year — Deer Hunt Areas 50, 105 and 152. Game and Fish is halfway through a statewide CWD working group collaborative process. The group’s interim report is available to the public and includes nine recommendations and 43 sub-recommendations. These recommendations will be reviewed for inclusion in the department’s revised CWD management plan, out for public comment beginning Dec. 2-Jan. 15.
The fish division presented the Commission with an overview of the aquatic invasive species (AIS) program and provided updates on the development of AIS rapid response plans. These plans will outline the department’s management actions in the event that invasive mussels are detected in Wyoming waters.
Several Game and Fish personnel received recognition for their tenure and dedication to Wyoming’s resources. Aquatic Habitat Biologist Supervisor Lara Gertsch and Cody Regional Fish Biologist Jason Burkhart were both recognized for 20 years of service to the State of Wyoming. Further, Jessica Beechman, north Riverton game warden, received the 2019 Wyoming National Wild Turkey Federation Wildlife Officer of the Year Award and Ian Tator, statewide terrestrial habitat manager, received the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Partner of the Year Award.
The Commission’s next meeting is Jan. 15-16 in Cheyenne.