Several local business owners and a chamber of commerce official say a recent letter sent out by the Colorado Division of Wildlife explaining chronic wasting disease would benefit the local economy this hunting season.
A letter written by Colorado Division of Wildlife Director Russell George was sent to all big game hunters in Colorado and the United States who drew a limited license to hunt deer and elk in Colorado.
In the letter, George explained what the disease is, its history, testing possibilities that will be available this fall and why people might or might not want to be concerned.
Local groups like the Moffat County Tourism Board and a specially formed local chronic wasting disease committee have been discussing ways to try to inform and educate out-of-state hunters who have likely heard about the recent discovery of CWD in wild mule deer in Northwest Colorado.
"We've talked about what to do at several meetings and writing a letter was one of the things we wanted to do," said Cathy Vanatta, executive director of the Craig Chamber of Commerce. "The tourism board was satisfied with the letter. We were all relieved. I think it is sufficient."
Since wild mule deer were discovered to be carrying CWD, which is deadly in deer and elk, in and around the Motherwell Ranch South of Hayden last spring, local officials and business owners have debated what effect this might have on hunters wanting to come to Northwest Colorado this fall.
Vanatta was concerned when the disease was first discovered, but said lately she is more at ease with the situation.
"Even without the letter I don't think people were that concerned," she said.
"I really don't think it will have much impact on hunting season here. There have been no hotel cancellations and a group of 50 hunters from Denver just called and said they are coming."
Hunters are not even asking questions about CWD, Vanatta said.
"Everybody I've talked to has been positive," she said. "Nobody seems to be that concerned. Hunters that drew licenses are going to come."
Vanatta noted that CWD has not been discovered in any elk in the area yet, just deer.
"I feel very comfortable because a majority of those from out of state are elk hunters," she said.
"A majority of the deer hunters are local people."
Frank Moe, owner of Deer Park Inn, has repeatedly expressed his belief in recent weeks that letters need to be sent and surveys need to be conducted on out-of-state hunters to find out their perception regarding the disease.
When word came out that the DOW had sent the letters with the licenses, Moe said he joked that he can finally rest easy.
"This is great," Moe said. "I still think it might be a good idea if they did a survey to find out what percentage of hunters would want to test their animals. But with Russell George putting out the letters with the licenses, people know that we're trying to take care of them."
So far business is as usual as far as hunters making reservations for the fall, Moe said.
"Now that the licenses are out people have been calling for reservations and nobody has said a word about it," he said.
"As soon as licenses went out, we started getting calls right away. We're happy."
Steve Cox, hunting coordinator for Elkhorn Outfitters, said he doesn't think the outfitting industry has seen much of an effect.
"Not one person has asked about it and I've talked to guys all over the country," Cox said. "I've had a few guys ask if we're on fire but haven't had anybody ask or say a word about chronic wasting disease."
Mikki O'Brien, chairwoman of the Moffat County Tourism Association and manager of
the Craig Holiday Inn, said reservations are not down at the Holiday
"We haven't had any cancellations," she said. "So far business is the same as other years. We're feeling pretty confident."