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Official advocates slaughter of deer

Official advocates slaughter of deer

July 13, 2001 Rocky Mountain News (Denver CO) by Lou Kilzer

A Colorado Wildlife commissioner Thursday proposed a quarantine on all deer from areas where a fatal neurological disease has taken root.

Commissioner Robert Shoemaker also proposed the eventual slaughter of all deer in the areas to stop Chronic Wasting Disease from spreading into areas of the state believed unaffected.

The seven other commissioners meeting Thursday in Grand Junction did not endorse the proposal, but the executive director of the Colorado Mule Deer Association did.

Denny Behrens, a Grand Junction real estate builder, said outside the meeting that state practices are threatening deer herds on the Western Slope.

"They are not doing enough," he complained of state agencies.

The commissioners met to discuss various wildlife issues, including CWD and the trapping of fox.

In a tie vote the commission rejected a measure first proposed by the Colorado Trappers Association to again allow live trapping of the swift fox, pine marten and opposum. The measure means no trapping of these species will be allowed. During a sometimes heated session, a dozen people spoke on both sides of the issue.

The morning session focused on CWD, a disease related to mad cow disease that has crippled the cattle industry in Great Britain.

Already, 107 people have died of new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, believed caused by cattle affected by mad cow disease.

Chronic Wasting Disease is related to mad cow disease in that both are caused by a protein called a prion. Also, both are part of a family of degenerative neurological conditions known as transmissable spongiform encephalopathy.

So far, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports no evidence that CWD can be contracted by humans the way mad cow disease apparently has. In the absence of proof of human risk, many scientists and regulators see little cause for extreme action.

Shoemaker, however, said it would be better to play it safe.

"It only takes one case to cause a panic," he told the News.

Behrens said his immediate concern is for Colorado's deer. Already CWD, whose epicenter is in northeast Colorado, has been reported in several other states.

Saskatchewan, Canada, has two recently recorded cases of CWD. There, officials are considering killing a herd of 5,000 animals to contain it. More than 3,500 elk have been eradicated in the province after reports of CWD.

Wildlife veterinarian Michael Miller said the goal is to reduce the number of infected deer to 1-2 percent of the total herd. That could take as long as 20 years in the most-infected areas, he told commissioners.

CWD was first detected in the 1960s in an area near Fort Collins, but only with the advent of mad cow disease has widespread public concern been voiced.


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