SOUTHERN COLORADO – Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first found in Colorado in 1960’s and has since spread to 23 other states.
Now, researchers want to know how far it’s spread within Colorado.
“[The animals are] suffering, they’re sick and suffering,” explained Cody Wigner, Assistant Area Wildlife Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “You know, just very poor body condition, really skinny, bones showing, they were laying there on their death bead.”
Multiple species are being affected.
“[Chronic Wasting Disease] can occur in both species of deer, so mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose. We see higher prevalence in deer and that’s our biggest concern right now,” Wigner added.
Biologists want to find out where it’s spreading to contain it.
“Colorado Parks and Wildlife has very good biologists that work year-round in regards to chronic wasting disease,” said Tom Wisdom, a volunteer hunter education instructor for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Wisdom says hunters play a big role, saying, “During big game season, [Colorado Parks and Wildlife] kind of rely on hunters that are out in the field.”
To test CWD, biologists remove a lymph node sample from the animals’ heads, which hunters drop off.
“The best way to get that data collection is from hunters who harvest mostly deer,” said Wigner.
“Voluntary numbers have kind of dropped off so we’re making mandatory, fee waived in certain areas so we can increase that sample size to get better data.”
Although human health isn’t at risk, Wisdom says Colorado’s economy is.
“It’s a multi-million dollar industry in the state of Colorado, a big money-maker,” said Wisdom.
“And protection of the hoofed animals in the state is very important for us.”
Parks and Wildlife is working towards solutions.
“[We’re trying] to make sure they’re around for everybody for years to come,” Wigner emphasized.
Parks and Wildlife will require samples from a broad range of licenses.
Hunters will receive a letter in the mail with the closest location where they can drop off that sample.