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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


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Eric Hardester_10154334241172157
Eric H. - posted 1 year ago on 09-16-2018 10:17:12 am
Gilbert, AZ

Gary, I read in Jim Heffelfinger's "Deer of the Southwest" that scientists aren't sure how it's spreading, but there doesn't need to be contact between deer. It can be spread by deer occupying habitat (ie deer pens) that previously had deer with CWD on it. I agree, these ranches definitely seem to be part of the problem.

Chris D. - posted 1 year ago on 08-28-2018 05:25:13 am
Cleveland, OH

Wait a minute. I'm sorry if I misunderstand how this advisory group fits into the overall response, but Colorado is just NOW figuring out how to deal with to CWD?! Colorado was literally ground zero for discovery. How has it taken the better part of four decades to do something? I'm originally from WI, and while I don't know that the response there has been overly effective I can say with confidence that at least the DNR and state agencies wasted no time developing and implementing a plan... Have wildlife ranches in the state been subject to inspection over these past years? I know there are different sides to the story, but invariably game farms out east tend to be the first place CWD shows up.

Kyle R. - posted 1 year ago on 08-27-2018 04:43:56 pm

It is funny that Chris Jurney and Don Cook were both placed on this group. Both are heavily involved in Ranching for Wildlife and make their living off it! You would think the first place the CPW would start is by doing away with the Ranching for Wildlife program which promotes the gathering of large herds of wildlife which spreads the disease. I also think it needs to be looked at that it isn't a coincidence that where the disease is most common is the units that have several of the Ranching for wildlife ranches located within them. I think the CPW should start first by getting rid of the Ranching For Wildlife Program. I don't think it is a good idea to think that slaughtering the mature bucks in these units is going to solve anything!

Gary H. - posted 1 year ago on 08-27-2018 08:08:35 am

I cant agree with killing more deer before they kill themselves theory.
But at least they are doing something about it.

I wonder if the many water guzzlers across the states have anything to do with the increase in disease. They want people to stop feeding the deer and putting out salt-blocks but the DOW is installing water guzzlers for wildlife all over the country to try to bring the herds back.

I wonder if anyone looked into the fact if this disease is contracted through water and not through food or sex.