Sheriff pushes for local CWD testing facility

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Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead told county commissioners Tuesday that a testing facility for chronic wasting disease should be set up in the Craig area.

"I've been tied up with addressing chronic wasting disease as a matter of choice because it definitely impacts Moffat County," Grinstead said. "The state is responsible for making sure we get a lab here."

Grinstead's concern stems from the recent discovery of the disease in five wild mule deer in and around the Motherwell Ranch south of Hayden.

Grinstead sent out an e-mail Tuesday encouraging residents to call the director of the Division of Wildlife Russell George and let him know the importance of getting a testing lab in the Craig area by the next hunting season.

"They just asked the Legislature for more money for a lab but they might put it in Grand Junction," Grinstead said. "Statistically we have the highest percentage of hunters so it would make sense to put a lab in Moffat County. I think a portable lab in this area makes the most sense."

The money Grinstead referred to appropriates an additional $1.94 million to the Division of Wildlife and authorizes 10 additional full-time employees to monitor and survey deer herds and operate a test facility on the Western Slope.

The legislation does not specify where the lab facility would be set up on the Western Slope and George said Tuesday that the DOW has not determined where the lab would be located.

"There's been no decisions made on where we'll put a lab," he said. "We're looking at all possibilities."

George said he realized the concern of Moffat County residents.

"I'm very sensitive to what the folks in Moffat County are saying," he said. "It may be the best place for a lab is in Craig, but first of all I need to get money from the state."

Currently the division is weighing several options, he said.

"Right now we're looking at Grand Junction or Craig," he said.

"It might be both. I don't know. Colorado State University already has a lab. It might be possible to take samples from the Western Slope there. Whether or not that would be enough, I just don't know."

Setting up labs for hunters to test their game after they have killed it is a new idea for the DOW, he said.

"Taking thousands of samples within a time span of a few weeks is something we've never had to do before," he said. "No matter where you put a lab, you have to have a staff to

operate it."

Don Myers, a cattle rancher and local outfitter, agreed with Grinstead that there is a need for a lab in Moffat County.

"We need to give hunters confidence that we're serious about addressing this problem," he said. "I don't think the DOW has any idea of the value of this testing."

Myers said timing will be key in testing game for out-of-state hunters.

"We need to get a test at least as fast as it takes processors to work," he said. "A one- or two-day turn around would be good."

Myers said the one question he had from an out-of-state hunter regarded testing.

"I haven't had any cancellations yet," Myers said. "But I had one inquiry and he wanted to know how fast his animal could be tested."

If a lab is put anywhere it should be in Moffat County, he said.

"I would like to see a lab because the discovery of this disease directly affects us," he said. "Northwest Colorado is probably the premiere hunting area in the western states and we need to protect that."

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