CWD confirmed in Colorado elk, deer and moose


Colorado Elk
Photo credit: Shutterstock

With the recent confirmation that chronic wasting disease (CWD) has already infected roughly 16% of Colorado’s bucks, bull elk and bull moose, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is taking action. Last week, CPW launched a task force aimed at keeping the disease from spreading and discussed ideas that ranged from “requiring hunters to test carcasses of the animals they kill” to special hunts targeted at bucks and bulls in “hard-hit herds,” the Denver Post reports.

As goHUNT has previously reported, nearly half of Colorado’s deer herds and one-third of the elk herds are infected by the disease, causing the state to roll out mandatory disease testing for 21 game management units last fall.

“We’re at a very critical point. We need to do something. This is not only in Colorado. It is nationwide. And there are other states that have a higher prevalence,” said Colorado Wildlife Commissioner Marie Haskett.

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The task force is working on a draft of its CWD management plan and will present a final version to the commissioners this September. According to the Denver Post, the proposal includes ideas like holding special CWD hunts to wipe out male animals in herds where disease is prevalent; creating early detection programs that would require roadkill deer and elk to be tested for CWD; and prohibiting baiting or the use of salt licks to stop herds from co-mingling and, possibly, spreading disease.

While CWD management plans are state-run, a recently formed national Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance hopes “to help coordinate state responses,” the Denver Post reports. The alliance encourages hunters to test all deer, elk and moose harvests and supply samples for disease monitoring.  

“If you are a hunter, we will need you to hunt because we need the samples you can provide. If you are a wildlife enthusiast and want to see healthy deer and elk, you’ll need to push for funding for studies and for implementing all the recommendations in this plan for scientific management of CWD,” said Matt Dunfee, alliance director. “The challenge for the public will be allowing these animals to be harvested. This disease does not go away. There is no vaccine. It is always fatal. And the only hope we have to manage it is to try to keep the prevalence low.”

CWD is not a western-specific disease. While there have been multiple confirmed cases in Montana and Wyoming, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and other states have also detected and confirmed CWD in their herds.


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