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Game and Fish Commission Sets Hunting Seasons

Blame fewer big game hunting licenses this year on the drought and a tiny insect that spreads a fatal disease.

These problems reduced herds, which will result in Wyoming issuing fewer pronghorn antelope and deer hunting licenses, a wildlife official said Monday.

But the populations have survived nonetheless, said Scott Smith, deputy chief of the wildlife division for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“We have some reductions in deer and pronghorn antelope across the state, but we haven’t had a huge winter die-off or anything like that,” Smith said.

Last week, the department proposed its annual recommendations for permits and seasons to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, Smith said.

Those recommendations were influenced by several consecutive years of drought and a rise of a fatal disease transmitted by an insect called a midge that lives at water sources, he said.

The disease, which causes internal bleeding, is called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), and it erupted late last summer. Smith said.”This tiny black midge bites the animals as they’re coming to water sources.”

As a result, the state will issue about 12,000 fewer pronghorn permits, Smith said.

The drought and midge-transmitted EHD affected mule deer and white tail deer populations, so the state will cut 5,400 limited-quota tags including some nonresident tags, Smith said.

Elk populations remain strong, but the state will issue slightly fewer tags, Smith said.

“Overall, elk numbers are still robust throughout the state,” Smith said. “In fact, 2013 was the second-highest harvest year we’ve had in elk in the recent past.”

The state will issue fewer moose tags, and that continues a recent trend, he said.

Big horn sheep and mountain goat populations are stable and the numbers of those tags will be the same as last year, Smith said.

The commission will set the seasons and number of tags for wolves following public meetings in May, Smith said.

Besides department officials, members of the public spoke, too, said Janet Milek, department spokeswoman for the Casper regional office.

About 30 to 40 outfitters offered comments, some of which altered the original hunting season proposals, Milek said.

Gov. Matt Mead has 75 days after last week’s meeting to sign off on the commission’s recommendations.

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