Local CWD testing labcontinues to elude group

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The possibility of setting up a chronic wasting disease testing lab in a tent or trailer this fall is unlikely, Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos reported to a local chronic wasting disease committee Wednesday afternoon.

"The actual process is not done absent of a fully equipped lab," she said.

Conducting tests in the lab at The Memorial Hospital is still open to investigation, the committee decided, but for now committee members will concentrate on making sure information about the disease is available to hunters if they have questions when they come to the area.

Local officials also will work with the Colorado Division of Wildlife to make sure there is a convenient method for hunters to submit samples that can be sent to a lab at Colorado State University for testing.

The local CWD committee, made up of city council members, county commissioners, hospital officials, business owners and outfitters, gathered Wednesday afternoon at the courthouse to hear a report from Raftopoulos on the feasibility of setting up a lab in Craig.

At a meeting three weeks ago the suggestion was made to semi-privatize a lab in Moffat County by using local dollars in conjunction with money from Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Raftopoulos, who is also a member of the Colorado State Wildlife Commission, was given the task of calling the Division of Wildlife to ask questions regarding the possibility of getting a lab in Craig.

Currently CWD testing is done at Colorado Statue University and the University of Wyoming.

Due to the recent discovery of CWD in wild mule in and around the Motherwell Ranch south of Hayden, local officials are exploring ways to keep out-of-state hunters coming to the area this fall.

At the last meeting committee members decided one way to lessen the impact would be to offer hunters a quick test so they would know before they returned home whether their animals are positive for the disease.

One test that could be done at a lab in Craig is the recently developed dot blot test, Raftopoulos said.

"The dot blot can be done but it is only 80 to 90 percent accurate," she said. "It's possible to do it in conjunction with the hospital but the problem is it's not 100 percent."

Committee members decided Wednesday that hospital administrator Randy Phelps and other committee members should set up a tour at the CSU lab to assess the possibility of conducting the test at The Memorial Hospital.

"What if the DOW comes back and says we can't put a lab in and says we will have sites set up to take samples?" Raftopoulos asked. "How do we feel about that? Is that enough?"

Because hunting season will be here in two months, committee members agreed the best plan would be to take what the state will provide, make thorough information about the disease available to hunters and continue to investigate getting a lab.

"We need to determine how we want to go forward and how we want to service hunters," Raftopoulos said. "We want to assure that they have a positive experience."

The DOW will likely set up sites where hunters can take the heads of their deer or elk to have brain tissue removed. The tissue would then be sent to CSU for testing.

Several local outfitters have already taken a class to get certified to remove the tissue sample in the field, but the tissue removal sites will be set up for hunters not using such services from an outfitter or guide.

"We can have situations set up so tests can be taken and sent the next day," Raftopoulos said. "This can be done in several areas. Maybe the Chamber of Commerce."

Hunters will simply take their meat home with them.

If they are concerned about it being infected with CWD, they should wait for the results of the test before they consume the meat, the committee decided.

Kathy Vanatta, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce, said information packets would be available at the chamber.

"The packet will have answers to any questions they might have," Vanatta said. "I think we'll be OK. I haven't heard of people calling in and asking for a refund. "

Frank Moe, owner of Deer Park Inn in Craig, said he thought a survey should done ahead of time to find out what is on the minds of hunters.

"My thought still is if there's 1,000 hunters coming, I suggest we do a survey and ask how many of them are going to do a test," he said. "We have no idea what's in the customers' minds. If we called 1,000 hunters tomorrow and asked 'are you planning to do a test,' 90 percent might say no. If 90 percent say no, we ought not keep pushing

for the lab."

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