By JOSH NICHOLS
Daily Press writer
Some 15 state Division of Wildlife officials gathered at the Motherwell Ranch in southwestern Routt County Monday to begin killing deer within a five-mile radius of the 6,000-acre ranch.
The deer in the area are being killed to find out if chronic wasting disease, already discovered in two wild mule deer at the ranch and suspected in a third, has spread.
Using a helicopter to herd the deer, state officials will work the entire week to find out if the fatal brain disease has spread to deer herds in and around the ranch.
"Throughout the week they plan on killing about 300 deer," said Dawn Taylor, a spokeswoman with the Department of Natural Resources.
Taylor said she did not know how many deer were killed Monday.
"The only report we've got is the second deer suspected to have chronic wasting disease did test positive," she said. "We'll know today if the third deer has it."
Randy Horne, president of The Colorado Outfitters Association and owner of Bar-H Outfitters in Meeker, was at the ranch Monday when DOW officials went to work.
"What I saw is obviously not what a person would like to see. No outfitter, sportsman or business owner wants to see what's happening take place," he said.
"But it is necessary in order to get a handle on this issue."
Horne said the DOW is handling the situation properly.
"I would commend the Division of Wildlife for addressing this issue and taking on this task," he said.
"The aggressive action it is taking has to be done. Anything less is not acceptable."
The harvesting is being conducted in a proper manner, Horne said.
"The harvesting is being done in a humane way," he said. "They weren't flying around in a helicopter shooting everything that moved. "
They're using the helicopter to herd the deer to strategic places so they can get to them with their vehicles."
The economy of Northwest Colorado is dependent upon avoiding an outbreak of chronic wasting disease, Horne said.
"If big game hunting ceased to exist it would be very detrimental to the economy on the Western Slope," he said. "Hunting takes a large toll on every outfitter's income."
The Division of Wildlife will hold two public meetings this week to discuss the discovery of chronic wasting disease at the Motherwell Ranch.
The first meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Hayden at the Yampa River State Park Headquarters.
The second meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Meeker Fairfield Center.
"The purpose of the meetings is to provide our local residents with information on what's going on in the vicinity of the Motherwell Ranch," said Susan Werner, the area wildlife manager with the Division of Wildlife in Steamboat Springs.
"Anybody interested in chronic wasting disease