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Colorado will not take Wisconsin actions

Officials optimistic with CWD test results in area

Josh Nichols

A Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesperson said DOW officials would not follow the lead of Wisconsin in trying to eradicate chronic wasting disease near Motherwell Ranch south of Hayden.

Officials in Wisconsin, where an outbreak of CWD was recently discovered in white-tailed deer herds, finalized a plan last week to kill an estimated 14,000 white-tailed deer in an effort to eradicate the disease in the infection area.

“We don’t have any plans to do that,” said Todd Malmsbury, spokesperson for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Malmsbury said the situation in Wisconsin is different than in Colorado.

He estimated that in the area where the culling effort will be conducted in Wisconsin, there are more than 100 white-tailed deer per square mile.

“They have four to 10 times as many deer as us,” he said. “Drivers kill as many deer on the road there as we do in harvest.”

The animals’ habits are also different in Wisconsin than they are in Colorado, he said.

“Animals don’t move much in Wisconsin,” he said. “We have major migration in Northwest Colorado. That’s why we went in and tested as many animals in that area as soon as we could.”

Malmsbury was referring to the recent effort by DOW officials to eradicate chronic wasting disease after a wild mule deer killed within the fences of Motherwell Ranch was discovered to be carrying the disease in late March.

Since then more than 900 deer and elk have been killed and tested within a five-mile radius of the ranch.

Results released last week showed three more deer tested positive for the disease in the Motherwell Ranch area, bringing the total to six deer that have tested positive outside of the fence since culling began a month ago. Of 135 elk tested, none tested positive.

State officials were optimistic that no elk tested positive and the infection rate in deer was less than 1 percent.

“These results confirmed what we were all hoping to hear,” Gov. Bill Owens said. “We’ll continue to be aggressive in fighting this disease, but this is cause for great optimism for the Western Slope.”

Malmsbury said because of the importance of elk hunting in Northwest Colorado, people in the area should rest better knowing no elk are believed to be carrying the disease yet.

“These results tell us the disease is not well established if it exists at all,” he said. “It’s good news that no elk have been found with chronic wasting disease.”

Malmsbury said the culling effort is likely complete in the Motherwell Ranch area.

“The final decision is Russell George’s,” he said. “But we don’t have plans to kill any more animals for several months.”

Next hunting season thousands of animals will be tested in Northwest Colorado, he said. The focus will now shift to developing better, quicker testing methods, he said.

“One of our biggest concerns right now is developing new tests that can be done quickly so we can test more samples this fall,” he said.

Gary Baysinger, owner of Mountain Meat and Sausage in Craig, said meat processors cringe at the thought of what will happen to the industry in Wisconsin.

“My concern is with the meat packers in Wisconsin where 50 percent of business comes from meat processing,” he said. “Many of these people might lose their livelihood. If this is what it takes, the small meat packers are going to need help to weather the storm.”

Steve Krut, a meat packer in Pennsylvania and executive director of the American Association of Meat Processors, said actions like the ones being taken in Wisconsin could wipe out an industry.

“Killing that many deer results in more than just one bad season,” he said. “When you talk about rebuilding deer and elk herds, it can go on for years. We need to ask, ‘By wiping out all of the animals are we even solving the problem?'”


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