Elk NetworkHow Examining Teeth Helps Wildlife Management

General | February 5, 2018

If you want to know the age of a tree, you get a cross section and count its rings. If you want to know the age of a wild animal, you do the same thing except with a tooth. That’s exactly what the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGF) is doing at its forensic lab on the University of Wyoming campus.

It’s a fairly simple cooperative effort between hunters and scientists. And the bottom line is wildlife management is the big winner. First, biologists ask successful hunters if they can pull a tooth from an elk, bear, deer or other animal at a game check station. They then mail the gathered teeth to a lab where they are soaked in a solution to soften them so they can be cut in half.

“The solution removes the calcium and makes it flexible, like an eraser, so we can cut into it,” Miranda Strand, WGF tooth-aging coordinator, told the Laramie Boomerang.

Information gathered from examining a tooth’s cross section shows the age of the animal which can provide insights into the overall health of a herd which benefits game managers as they make game management decisions.

Go here to learn more about the process.

(Photo source: Shannon Broderick/Laramie Boomerang via AP)