Seven more animals statewide have tested positive for chronic wasting disease outside of Colorado's endemic area.
Three of those animals -- two elk and one deer -- were discovered in Moffat County, bringing the county's total to about 20 this season.
But at a Colorado Wildlife Commission meeting Wednesday, state commissioners said they are going to take another year to gather data before any steps are taken to address the problem, according to Moffat County Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos, a wildlife commission member.
"What was determined is the same programs will be kept," Raftopoulos said. "We want to get another year of data from the northwest part of the state."
All of the most recent discoveries of the disease in Moffat County were made in game management unit 211, which is north of Meeker.
A hunter killed one of the elk Nov. 7.
A Division of Wildlife officer, who suspected that the sickly looking animal might be carrying the disease, killed the other Nov. 29.
A road-killed mule deer picked up by a Division of Wildlife officer along Highway 13 was the third animal that tested positive.
Although the disease was only known to exist in the endemic area in Northeastern Colorado before this year, the 20 positive cases in Moffat County will not result in an endemic label for the area anytime soon, Raftopoulos said.
In northeast Colorado's endemic area, where the disease has been known to exist for 20 years, all deer and elk killed must be submitted for testing.
Testing is still optional for hunters in the rest of the state.
"They have 20 years of data," Raftopoulos said of the endemic area. "In some parts there is more than a 15 percent infection rate. Here we're looking at less than 1 percent."
The numbers don't justify an endemic label, Raftopoulos said.
"We can't call this an endemic area with those type of numbers," she said.
Todd Malmsbury, spokesperson for the Division of Wildlife, said that the division would not take any steps this year.
"We're still getting information," he said. "We're not talking about any dramatic steps or actions until we have time to evaluate this."
Chronic wasting disease first became an issue on the Western Slope last spring when deer were discovered to be carrying the disease in southwest Routt County.
The disease, only known to infect deer and elk, is a neurological disorder that results in death of infected animals.
To address the previously unknown spread of the disease, chronic wasting disease sample removal sites were set up throughout the state where hunters could submit the heads of animals they killed. One of those sites was placed in Craig.
The necessary tissue was removed from the animals' lymph nodes at the sites and were shipped to Colorado State University for testing.
To date, 25,890 animals have been submitted for chronic wasting disease testing statewide, and results have been released for about 24,864 of those animals.
So far 233 have tested positive for chronic wasting disease. Fifty-five of those were outside of the established area in northeastern Colorado with 20 of those in Moffat County.
Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.