A cow elk found dead in central Wyoming was recently determined to have had chronic wasting disease.

The elk was found in southeastern Washakie County some 30 miles southwest of Kaycee, within elk hunt area 48. Its discovery was part of an elk movement study in the Bighorn Mountains.

Chronic wasting disease is a chronic, fatal disease of the central nervous system. It affects mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.

The disease is less common in elk than it is in deer, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Chronic wasting disease has previously been documented in deer in the area, and had been found in elk to the northeast in elk hunt area 34.

"We have many means of monitoring for CWD and following its movement across the state. The disease moves very slowly, especially in elk, but this research and data is necessary as it will guide our future management decisions," said Scott Edberg, deputy division chief of the Wildlife Division.

In 2016, the department collected and analyzed more than 3,350 samples of the disease throughout Wyoming -- a significant increase from years past. The department plans to sample a similar number this year.

"We will continue our increased level of monitoring and ask for those who hunt to help by submitting harvested animals for testing. We also ask that those who see a sick animal report it to Game and Fish," Edberg added."

In Wyoming, the disease was first found in mule deer in the southeastern part of the state in 1985. It was discovered in elk the following year.

The department says surveillance data over the past two decades has shown increasing prevalence and distribution across the state, particularly in deer.

Chronic wasting disease is now found across the majority of the state. Recent detections suggest the disease continues to spread westward.

No evidence exists that the disease can be transmitted to humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the World Health Organization, advise people to avoid eating meat from any animal known to carry the disease.

Anyone can report sick deer, elk and moose to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Removing animals carrying the disease from the landscape can help reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease.

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