A new collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish will allow Northwest College students in science courses to gain hands-on experience by contributing to chronic wasting disease (CWD) monitoring and research.
The project will be led by Eric Maichak, Wyoming Game and Fish disease biologist, and Eric Atkinson, NWC assistant professor of biology.
Throughout the duration of the project, students will have the opportunity to be an ambassador of NWC and contribute meaningfully to science and wildlife management. A public training session will also be held for area residents who wish to help with the project.
Wildlife Management, Research Problems in Biology and INBRE students will work together to maintain a drop box with samples harvested by Big Horn Basin hunters from adult ungulates including deer, elk or moose. The students will retrieve retropharyngeal lymph nodes from harvested animals and place them in an ultra-low freezer at -80 degree Celsius. Weekly, students will work with the Wyoming Game and Fish to send the samples to the Wildlife Health Lab in Laramie.
Hunters who wish to have animals sampled are encouraged to call to CWD hotline at 307-754-6018. Callers will be given the numbers of students who are on duty, and a time to sample will be arranged between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
“Both Eric and I believe this is a great opportunity to develop strong ties between Northwest College, the Wyoming Game and Fish and the community, while spinning good relationships for our students from natural resource biology, biology, pre-professional science and conservation law enforcement,” Atkinson explained.
A public training session will be held for area residents who wish to help with the project Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m. in the Science and Math Building, room 247, on the NWC campus. Area hunters and members of the public who are interested in the project are strongly encouraged and welcome to attend. Students will receive the same training the next morning at 10 a.m.
According to the United States Geology Survey website, “In heavily affected areas of Wyoming, Colorado and Wisconsin, more than 40% of free-ranging cervids (members of the deer family) are infected; wildlife managers and researchers have documented CWD-associated population declines in white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk.”
Maichak and Wyoming Game and Fish personnel will train participants in sampling techniques, while giving an overview of chronic wasting disease, which is present and expanding in more than 25 states including Wyoming. Ultimately, students and hunters alike will contribute to a long-term surveillance program for the disease.
This year, the goal in the Big Horn Basin is to collect 200 samples from adult mule deer bucks in each of the Shoshone River and Clark’s Fork deer herds. Hunters who harvest adult mule deer bucks from Lovell to Cody and into the Clark’s Fork River areas are especially encouraged to have animals sampled.
For more information about the project, contact Atkinson at 307-754-6018 or Eric.Atkinson@nwc.edu.