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Disease may spur quarantine;
Wild elk, deer killed in northeastern part of Colorado would be checked for disease

January 30, 2002 Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO) by Gary Gerhardt 
and Lou Kilzer
State agricultural officials are considering a quarantine of all wild deer and elk killed in northeastern Colorado in a vigorous attempt to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease.

If adopted, the quarantine would mean that hunters could not remove their animals from the endemic area before having them checked for the disease. The affected area stretches from Fort Collins east to Nebraska and from the Wyoming border to the South Platte River. State Veterinarian Wayne Cunningham said Tuesday for such a plan to work, it would require "quick tests" of four hours, or 24 hours at most, which could be administered at big-game check stations.

CWD is in a class of fatal diseases called Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Another disease in the same class, called BSE or "mad cow disease," has killed more than 100 people, mostly in Great Britain.

There is no proof that CWD can infect humans, but that has not stopped the concern. "It's a bit of a domino effect based on fear," said Cunningham.

He said the proposal calls for all deer and elk killed by hunters, game wardens, ranchers, road killed or simply found dead in the endemic area to be tested for CWD. If any is positive, it would be disposed of in high temperature furnaces.

"In order for this to be acceptable to everyone involved, we are pinning our hopes on two new CWD tests, one that takes 24 hours to determine if the animal is positive for CWD, and another that takes only four hours," Cunningham said.

Currently, because of the backup in testing at the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University and the method of testing, hunters have been waiting six to eight weeks at times for results from the tests.

Cunningham said enforcement would fall to wildlife officers staffing check stations.

"This is especially important for other states that don't want infected deer or elk from Colorado being transported into their states," Cunningham said.

Cunningham said news that the disease has turned up in free-roaming deer in Nebraska prompted a review of Colorado's efforts to contain CWD.

"The situation in Nebraska is much worse than anticipated," Cunningham said. Three deer tested positive in the southwestern part of the state near the endemic areas in Colorado and Wyoming. Six other diseased deer have shown up in the northern part of the panhandle.

Colorado Division of Wildlife director Russ George said he hasn't seen the proposal yet, but said any steps to control the disease "would be welcome."

Cunningham said the quarantine is only an idea so far, and that before it goes to the state Agriculture and Wildlife commissions for adoption as a rule, staff from both agencies will work closely to ensure an enforceable plan.

He believes it will take three weeks to a month to draft a rule for consideration by both commissions.

INFOBOX

Diseased deer and elk

State agricultural officials will propose that all game taken from the areas shown be tested for chonic wasting disease before meat is released to the hunter.

Source: Colorado State Division of Wildlife

NOTES: Contact Gary Gerhardt at (303) 892-5202 or gerhardtg@RockyMountainNews.com. Contact Lou Kilzer at (303) 892-2644 orkilzerl@RockyMountainNews.com


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