GREEN RIVER - Conjunctivitis or “pink eye” similar to the infection that occasionally infects cattle with sore, red and mattered eyes, has infected some yearling mule deer bucks north of Farson.
The infection necessitated the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to shoot 15 young bucks near the Buckskin Crossing area north of Farson and five near Fremont Lake north of Pinedale since late November. The deer had been rendered blind or nearly blind by the infection. The heads were sent to the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory for examination.
“By removing the deer from the population it helps break the cycle of the disease, and it’s the humane thing to do because the deer will begin to starve,” said Scott Edberg, game warden supervisor in Pinedale. “This appears to be the worst pink eye outbreak in the area since 1981-82.”
But the G&F believes the outbreak was not widespread enough to significantly reduce the deer population because only a portion of the yearling bucks were infected. Surveillance of the Buckskin Crossing area Dec. 16-17 failed to detect any more infected deer, and the G&F believes the outbreak probably has run its course.
Although it can be many years between pink eye outbreaks in a deer herd, outbreaks typically occur in late fall when young bucks have face-to-face contact while sparring during breeding season, according to Tom Thorne, wildlife veterinarian and G&F Services Division chief.
Outbreaks transmitted by flies have also been documented some years in late summer.
Thorne said a December pink eye outbreak poses no threat to domestic livestock because flies are dead and face-to-face contact between deer and cattle is unlikely. The disease can also infect elk, moose and bighorn sheep, but has not been detected this fall in those species.
He also assures hunters that pink eye does not affect venison quality.
Anyone spotting a big game animal that is sick or acting strangely is urged to call the nearest G&F office.