Northeast Colorado has long been labeled a chronic wasting disease endemic area because of the large number of deer and elk that have been discovered to be infected with the disease.
With the recent discovery of five deer carrying the disease in the Motherwell Ranch area south of Hayden, state officials are trying to decide what an appropriate label would be for that area.
"We consider Northeast Colorado where the disease has been known to exist for decades an endemic area," said Todd Malmsbury, chief of information with the Division of Wildlife. "We call it an endemic area because it has been there a long time."
But officials are not yet sure if it is appropriate to cast such a label on the Motherwell Ranch area.
"What we're looking at is whether it would be appropriate to label the area in Southwestern Routt County and endemic area or whether it should be called an outbreak," Malmsbury said. "A decision has not yet been made about that. A lot of discussion will occur tomorrow at the Colorado Wildlife commissioners meeting."
The Colorado Wildlife Commission meets Thursday in Grand Junction and one of the main topics of discussion will be CWD.
Malmsbury said the Wildlife Commission makes regulation based on recommendations from the DOW.
No recommendation has been made to declare the area endemic.
Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, who serves on the Colorado Wildlife Commission, said being labeled endemic would mean more scientific research would be conducted in the area, which might include more samples of animals killed in the area. But she did not think the area should be labeled endemic.
"I don't think we're there yet," she said. "The numbers just aren't there to indicate that. But whatever we have to deal with, we will deal with."
Malmsbury said the DOW understands the economic concerns Northwest Colorado residents might have about hunters not wanting to come to the area because of an "endemic" label.
"We look at this as an outbreak rather than a disease that has been established," he said. "We clearly understand why residents would be concerned to have an endemic label in such a small part of the county. That's why there's consideration to use different terminology."
Dawn Taylor, spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources, said the DOW policy manual allows for additional areas to be labeled endemic.
"They're not saying there's a chance it's going to be labeled endemic," she said. "It's simply an allowance in policy. There's been no discussion to label the area endemic."
Because so few have been discovered to carry the disease, she said it was unlikely the area would be labeled endemic.
"There have been five deer discovered in a very isolated area," she said. "That doesn't qualify as endemic."
In other business regarding chronic wasting disease Thursday, wildlife commissioners will:
Consider giving the DOW authority to shoot hundreds of deer whenever the disease appears outside of an infection zone.
Prohibit the private possession of mule deer, or the movement of mule deer unless they are leaving Colorado.