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, hunters in select elk hunt areas are again being asked to collect blood samples from their harvest 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 in turn cause animals to abort calves and further transmit the disease.
Hunters in targeted elk hunt areas for the 2021 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, then storing it properly and submitting it in a timely manner. 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.
As an incentive to 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. Over $9,000 in prizes are being offered:
GRAND PRIZE PACKAGE
- Benelli Lupo rifle, winner’s choice of caliber in .243, .308, 6.5 Creedmoor, .270, .30-06, or .300 Win Mag (donated by Benelli)
- Vortex Viper PST Gen II 5-25×50 PST rifle scope (donated by Vortex Optics)
- Sig Sauer Oscar8 27-55×80 Spotting Scope (donated by Sig Sauer)
- Browning X-Bolt rifle in 6.5 Creedmoor (donated by the Cody Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)
- Badlands gear package (pack, pants, shirt, jacket, hoodie, thermals) (donated by Badlands)
- Maven C1 10×42 binoculars (donated by Maven)
- Mystery prize TBA (donated by the Wyoming Sportsman’s Group)
“Thank you to all our sponsors who support wildlife with their generous donations,” Maichak said.
Since 2016, 2,445 such samples were collected by hunters in the Bighorn Mountains with no elk testing seropositive. For 2021, the surveillance area will shift to target Wyoming’s most eastern elk hunt areas, within and around the Wyoming Livestock Board’s designated surveillance area, as well as the western edge of the Bighorn Mountains.
Those elk hunt areas are: 1-3, 6, 7, 25, 27, 28, 39-41, 45, 47-49, 54, 56, 58, 59, 61-64, 66, 100, 106, 107, 113, 116, 117, 122, 123, 126-127, 129
Hunters are urged to wear latex 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 simply drop the prepaid box with the sample in the mail. A video on how to collect a blood sample from a harvested elk can be found online.
Brucellosis has been shown to slightly reduce pregnancy rates but not limit 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.
(Sara DiRienzo, Public Information Officer – (firstname.lastname@example.org))