Colorado moves forward with CWD response plan

Colorado mule deer

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Colorado is no stranger to chronic wasting disease (CWD) and recently formed a CWD advisory group to develop a Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan by November and have it approved and in place by December. According to the Rio Blanco Herald Times, in some of the upriver Game Management Units, officials have watched the prevalence of CWD grow to nearly 27%; however, other areas within the state like the Piceance Creek GMU #22 herd only found a 2% infection rate. This means that a calculated effort needs to be in place in order to keep the deadly disease in check.

Last month, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) held two public meetings to gather information and discuss the mission behind creating the CWD advisory group, which is comprised of Chris Jurney, a local outfitter and wildlife control professional; Troy Sweet, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Don Cook, Moffat County Commissioner; and Marie Haskett, Meeker outfitter and a member of the Parks and Wildlife Commission.

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“The group was given a lot of information to review, discuss and critique… in addition, we came up with some different ideas, suggestions and additional scientific studies,” Jurney told the Rio Blanco Herald Times. However, Jurney says that “[S]ome of the group and many outside [public] individuals remain extremely critical of the plan, including the 10 and 5 percent prevalence thresholds” and that “there is skepticism about [increased] removal of uninfected mature bucks in order to try to slow the spread of CWD.”

The group plans to hold additional meetings to discuss the draft plan, which will “take a long-term (at least 15 year) management approach that will test the efficacy of different actions taken to attempt to control the higher CWD rates,” before taking it to the CPW Commission this November with final approval in December, the Rio Blanco Herald reports.

While they plan to continue using hunter harvest data to implement herd specific actions per GMU, other parts of the plan, according to the Rio Blanco Herald, take into consideration the following:

  • Increasing surveillance and monitoring, including animals killed by vehicle collisions, winter conditions or predators.
  • Compulsory disease management, which will not allow confirmed cases within a specific herd or area over 5%. If it hits 5%, then “management meant to reduce that rate will be required.”
  • Treatment options that include reducing populations or density in specific areas.
  • Reduced male: female ratios since bucks have a higher rate of infection to age equivalent does.
  • Changing herd age structure by increasing harvest of four to six-year-old bucks.
  • Maximizing ability to remove diseased animals at the smallest scale possible since CPW can now use harvest data to identify these areas.
  • Removing motivations that cause animals to concentrate like overfeeding, salt blocks, etc.
  • Minimizing prion point sources through “better control handling of carcass parts by hunters, outfitters, taxidermists, and meat processors, with special treatment in landfills.”
  • Incorporating CWD management actions and prevalence thresholds in herd management plans.
  • Monitoring, reassessing and adopting a plan going forward. Essentially, staying vigilant despite any indication that CWD is under control.

To keep track of the plan, visit the CPW website (go to the CWD page). With any questions or comments, contact DNR_AskCWDAdvisoryGroup@state.co.us.

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