Officials knew deer were in Motherwell

State to begin killing stray animals in ranch area

Local Division of Wildlife officials suspect that wild mule deer are still within the fence at Motherwell Ranch south of Hayden and plan to kill them within the next two weeks, a local official said.

Bailey Franklin, the district wildlife manager in Craig, said he, the Motherwell Ranch manager and a state brand inspector discovered deer tracks within the fence at Motherwell Ranch during an inspection on May 30.

The ranch has come under scrutiny by wildlife officials since four wild mule deer were discovered to be infected with chronic wasting disease in the ranch earlier this year.

Chronic wasting disease is fatal to deer and elk and transmission of the infection is still not known.

"We went out and inspected the fence to see what the integrity of the fence was," Franklin said.

"Basically the fence inspection went well."

The inspection was done to make sure no wild deer or elk can enter the fence and intermingle with the approximately 100 domestic elk on the ranch.

The deer had been inadvertently trapped inside the ranch fence when the barrier was built last year to contain the domestic elk.

In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease, wildlife officials killed more than 1,000 deer and elk in and around the ranch in March.

In all, four wild mule deer were discovered to carry the disease within the fence and six were discovered to carry it outside the fence. No elk tested positive for CWD.

Despite the immediate action taken by the DOW in killing and testing wild game in the area of Motherwell, the Department of Agriculture has been unable to go in and kill the domestic elk at the ranch due to a conflict with ranch owner Wes Adams.

The Department of Agriculture is in charge of dealing with domestic animals in the state.

The concern of the department is that the domestic herd might be infected with the disease, but department officials say Adams refuses to allow the animals to be killed unless he is given their market value.

Adams reportedly said the market value for the entire herd is $650,000 and Department of Agriculture officials say that kind of money is not in their budget.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife offered to pay for the material needed to build another fence surrounding the current fence if Adams would pay to have it built.

Those negotiations have also stalled.

Executive Director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife Russell George said he was unaware last week that deer were known to be inside the fence.

He said it is important the no animals from outside the fence come in contact with the animals in the known infection area.

"The concern has been that the fence on the property would separate wild game from the domestic elk," George said last week. "If you have animals moving back and forth, you can't control the disease. It's why we've been so insistent on depopulating."

Based on the fence inspection, Franklin said he did not believe deer could enter the ranch from outside the fence.

Instead, he said, they were likely trapped inside when the fence was first built and missed in the original culling effort.

"We plan to remove them as soon as we can within the next few weeks," he said.

Ron Velarde, the manager for the West Region of the DOW, said animals that can be seen from the road near Motherwell Ranch are not mixing with the domestic elk.

The domestic elk are within a separate fence more than a mile into the ranch, he said.

Right now, he said, DOW officials suspect deer are still within the elk pen due to deer tracks discovered there during the recent fence inspection at Motherwell.

Although the exact mode of CWD transmission has not been identified, it is believed that the disease, which is fatal to animals, is transmitted from animal to animal through saliva, urine and feces.

Division of Wildlife officials say the recent discovery of the disease in wild mule deer in and around Motherwell Ranch is the first time it has been discovered on Colorado's Western Slope.

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