Fencing match

State, ranch owner clash over killing, containing elk

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Due to a deadlock in negotiations with Motherwell ranch owner Wes Adams, state officials are considering constructing an electric fence around the elk ranch south of Hayden where wild mule deer were recently discovered to be infected with chronic wasting disease.

Officials would prefer to kill and test the 103 captive elk and pay ranch owner Wes Adams $3,000 per animal, but Adams and his lawyers say the reimbursement is not enough, considering he can charge hunters $10,000 to kill an elk on his property.

Since the discovery of chronic wasting disease in wild mule deer on the property at the end of March, the Colorado Department of Agriculture has pursued efforts to eradicate the captive elk in the facility.

The Department of Agriculture has jurisdiction in dealing with domestic animals in Colorado, while the Division of Wildlife deals with wild game.

Division of Wildlife officials have killed more than 1,000 wild deer and elk within a five-mile radius of the ranch in an effort to contain the spread of the disease and test animals in the area.

So far 10 wild mule deer have tested positive, while every elk tested has tested negative.

In meetings last week Adams and state officials began discussions on the possibility of building an electric fence around the ranch's existing fence.

"It came up in discussions but no decisions have been made and they don't know how much it would cost," said Todd Malmsbury, spokesperson for the division of wildlife.

Malmsbury said while the Division of Wildlife has a seat at the discussion table, the responsibility rests with the Department of Agriculture.

"The Department of Agriculture has already said it was ready to depopulate and supported that goal," Malmsbury said.

Whatever happens with the domestic animals has no bearing on the DOW's actions, Malmsbury said.

"It will not affect our approach because we have already culled and tested animals," he said. "We're not going to do anything different, but we would like to see a resolution to this."

Whether the domestic animals within the fence are infected does not matter in regard to the DOW, which has the responsibility of controlling the disease in the wild, Malmsbury said.

"While it's of great interest to know where the disease first occurred, it doesn't change the fact that we need to deal with the disease in the wild," he said.

Tom Schilling, spokesperson for the Colorado Elk Breeders Association, said the association has not taken a stance on the situation at the Motherwell Ranch, but said there has been no indication that the disease came from the domestic elk herd.

"That is between the ranch owner and the Department of Agriculture," Schilling said. "There's no indication it came from the elk on the ranch and no elk have tested positive or shown signs of the disease. We're still confident it did not come from those elk."

Agriculture Commissioner Don Ament has said he is opposed to the plan to build an electric fence around the ranch.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story)

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