Game and Fish Collect Record-Breaking Number of Big Game Teeth

A group of pronghorn gather near a house by the Bell Nob Golf Course. (Photo: County 17 / Brooke Byelich)
A group of pronghorn gather near a house by the Bell Nob Golf Course. (Photo: County 17 / Brooke Byelich)

The 2020 hunting season has provided more than 4,000 big game teeth to be processed and analyzed by The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), according to a recent press release. This is the largest amount of teeth that have ever been collected from harvests in the state due to increased hunter check stations and various research projects. The information collected from the big game teeth is useful in data for wildlife managers to analyze age classes, which is vital when making sound management decisions and to learn more about population dynamics.

The tooth aging program for WGFD is coordinated by Molly Bredehoft and is located at the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory in Laramie.

“For 2020, we’ve aged 827 pronghorn teeth so far,” Bredehoft said. “That’s much higher than just a few years ago in 2018 when only six teeth were submitted and analyzed. In 2019, our number of pronghorn teeth increased to over 500 due to a research project with the University of Wyoming, and this year’s high numbers are due to continuation of the research.”

By collecting the teeth of the harvested animals, researchers are able to analyze age classes. The oldest hunter-harvested animals in 2020 were:

Pronghorn – 13.5 years old
Elk – 16.5 years old
White-tailed deer – 12.5 years old
Mule deer – 12.5 years old
Moose – 11 years old

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According to the press release, teeth from the wildlife are analyzed using a technique called cementum annuli analysis tooth-aging.  The process is very similar to counting rings on a tree to determine growth.

WGFD personnel also collect teeth from wildlife captured for research projects and relocations, as well as winter mortalities and road killed animals.

Hunters who submitted a tooth sample can easily check their individual results online by logging into their Game and Fish account with their username and password. Creating a username and password is a simple process much like on other websites. To help, Game and Fish has step-by-step videos and written instructions. Hunter data will be linked automatically, including tooth aging results. Hunters can also use their license number, name and date of birth. A listing of ages by species is also available for anyone to browse.