State Wildlife Commission hosting workshops locally

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— Whirling disease will be the primary focus of Colorado Wildlife Commission workshops that are being held today and Friday in Steamboat Springs.

The Wildlife Commission dictates policy and regulations for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Commission members travel to a different location in the state each month to hold a workshop or a meeting. This month, the commission will meet in Steamboat Springs.

"This session, the focus will be on whirling disease," DOW spokesman Todd Malmsbury said.

Wildlife commissioners will hear presentations about whirling disease from the DOW's researchers, biologists and hatchery managers to help the commission better understand the scope of whirling disease issue.

From the information presented, the commissioners will make decisions about policy regulations, Malmsbury said.

Whirling disease is caused by a microscopic parasite that enters into the cartilage of fish and can cause deformity or death in certain types of trout, especially rainbow trout. The parasite is spread through an intermediate host, the tubifex worm, where it matures. The infected worm is eaten or the mature parasite is released into the water and is ingested by the trout.

Though whirling disease as been an issue in Colorado for a number of years, more accurate testing methods for the parasite showed DOW officials in March that the disease was even more prevalent in state hatcheries than previously thought.

That had a major impact on the number of fish that were available to stock in Colorado waters this year.

That is the primary reason why the DOW wasn't able to stock Casey's and Fetcher ponds this year.

After the commission is updated on whirling disease, wildlife officials will have a presentation from various grouse work groups.

The grouse issue is an important issue, Malmsbury said, especially with growing concern about the habitat of sage grouse. Sage grouse live in south Routt County and a local work group has been meeting to explore ways to maintain and improve the animals populations.

Though the workshop is not an open forum, it is open to the public.

The workshop starts at 10 a.m Thursday at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. Whirling disease discussions will last until 2:45 p.m. The grouse work groups will present their information at 3 p.m.

At 8 a.m. Friday, the commission will review its four-year financial plan and, at 10 a.m., talk about nonresident big game license limits. At 11 a.m. commission will go to Olympian Hall to see a presentation by Steamboat Springs High School students.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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