Wildlife managers in western Wyoming are concerned about high amounts of winterkill. The severe winter has potential impacts on pronghorn and mule deer. This winter’s above-average snowpack has resulted in malnutrition and death for many animals. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is worried about the situation.
The Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory is investigating a rare disease outbreak in pronghorn. The pathogen infecting the pronghorn is Mycoplasma bovis. Most of those animals ultimately died of pneumonia. Over 500 pronghorn have died due to the illness. Carcasses are being removed since mid-February by Game and Fish field personnel.
Severe Winterkill Seen In Pronghorn
Field necropsies were performed by Game and Fish personnel on the pronghorn carcasses. They have revealed a growing number of animals showing signs of dying from malnutrition and the effects of the long winter. A bright red and shrunken lung is a sign of M. bovis infection and pneumonia. Gelatinous bone marrow is a sign of malnutrition.
The wildlife managers are expecting significant pronghorn and mule deer mortality in the Sublette herd. Game and Fish managers are proposing significant reductions in pronghorn hunting licenses. Mule deer haven’t been affected by the M. bovis outbreak, but they are also going to suffer significant winter losses.
The number of collared animals may be a small percentage of the overall population. However, it does provide an indication of the number of animals that may be dying across the herd. Many animals will not succumb to winter until April or even early May, making the situation even more worrying.
Wildlife managers won’t be able to get an accurate assessment of the losses to pronghorn and mule deer until a majority of the snow melts. However, it is clear that the severe winter has caused high amounts of winterkill. Hunters can expect much more conservative hunting seasons for both species next fall.