Chronic wasting disease comes to Summit
SUMMIT COUNTY – The Colorado Division of Wildlife announced Friday that the first case of chronic wasting disease was confirmed in an elk taken by a hunter in Summit County.
DOW spokesman Todd Malmsbury said a bull elk killed west of Green Mountain Reservoir Sept. 14 tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disease. It is the second wild elk found with CWD in western Colorado.
“We’ve known that elk migrate over the Continental Divide into Middle Park from the CWD established area and that the disease could spread, but we don’t know if this case is related to that movement or not,” said Jeff Ver Steeg, the Division of Wildlife’s (DOW) terrestrial wildlife manager.
Ver Steeg said no immediate changes in wildlife management policy are expected, and the agency will reevaluate the unexpected test results. The DOW has tested 400 elk in the Middle Park area in recent years without a positive indication of the disease. Malmsbury said wildlife managers will meet Monday to discuss preparations for rifle season, which begins Oct. 12 and continues through November.
The hunter in this incident has been notified and his license fee will be refunded, according to a DOW statement. The bull was taken on the first day of muzzle-loading season, but Malmsbury did not know if the bull was killed by bow and arrow or a black-powder rifle, as both seasons are under way.
Chronic wasting disease kills deer and elk and has been found in portions of southeastern Wyoming and northeastern Colorado for more than two decades. State and federal health officials have found no connection between CWD and human illness. But as a precaution, hunters are advised not to eat the meat from any diseased animals.
“No connection has been found, but additional epidemiological work is being done,” Malmsbury said. “Given that uncertainty, some basic precautions should be taken, such as not eating brains and nervous tissue. If you see a sick animal, don’t take it.”
CWD was found in 10 wild deer in southwestern Routt County earlier this year, the first time the disease had been found in wild deer or elk outside the established area in Colorado.
Hunters can submit their animals for testing at DOW offices around the state and at the offices of some veterinarians. A complete list of testing sites and more information about CWD can be found at the division’s Web site at http://www.wildlife.state.co.us.
Testing is voluntary for hunters outside the established area and costs $17. Deer and elk hunters in the established area of northeastern Colorado are required to submit their animals for testing.
To assure testing accuracy, the animal’s head should be kept cool so the brain tissue needed for testing is in good condition. Don’t allow the head to rest in water and don’t put it in a freezer. Samples that have spoiled cannot be tested accurately.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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