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Wyoming seeks teeth samples from big game harvests

Wyoming seeks teeth samples from big game harvests

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If you harvest a mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, antelope, bison, bighorn sheep, mountain lion, black bear or bobcat in Wyoming this season, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) wants a tooth from that animal. Data gathered from teeth of these species helps wildlife biologists understand population dynamics and other species-specific information, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports. 

“Teeth are one source of important data collected from hunters that help wildlife managers assess how hunting seasons affect the population and the demographics of herds,” said WGFD Tooth Aging Coordinator Molly Bredehoft.

In fact, last year, the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory aged almost 4,000 teeth from ten different species, including a 20.5-year-old cow elk and two 22.3-year-old black bears, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide. However, it’s not just any tooth biologists are after. For mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, moose and bison, incisors are the best; whereas, for mountain lions, black bears, it’s premolars; for bobcats, their canines.

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If you are hunting in a targeted unit, you might receive a tooth box. According to the Jackson Hole News & Guide, WGFD selected random recipients from the license database. Teeth can also be collected at check stations in the designated areas. While there are instructions online for properly removing teeth, if you harvest a black bear or mountain lion, WGFD asks that you let a member of their staff extract the tooth. 

How are teeth aged? Biologists use cementum annuli analysis, which is like counting rings on a tree. 

“We count the annuli but also take into consideration when the permanent tooth grew in to determine a final age,” said Bredehoft

If you didn’t receive a box and still want your harvest aged, you can pay $25 to $30 per animal. Results will be available in mid-February for mule deer, whitetail deer and moose; elk in March; bison in mid-April; and the other species later in the year, according to the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

If you provide a tooth this season, you can contact Bredehoft at (307) 721-1926 or molly.bredehoft@wyo.gov or Kim Frazier, laboratory director at (307) 721-1922 or kim.frazier@wyo.gov. Have your license number handy for results.

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