Owens visits Hayden

Governor will meet with local officials to discuss CWD

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— Gov. Bill Owens will make an appearance in the Yampa Valley today to discuss the creation of task force to address chronic wasting disease and meet with local officials about the problem.

Owens will meet at 1 p.m. with about 40 local residents at Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

The meeting is closed to the public. Invited are officials from Routt and Moffat counties and local Division of Wildlife agents.

Prior to his trip to Hayden, Owens will hold a news conference in Denver to unveil the task force he has formed to tackle the deadly brain disease found in deer and elk, said Dawn Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources.

The disease has officials in Colorado concerned because two deer at the Motherwell Ranch recently tested positive for the disease.

The deer were fenced in with a commercial elk herd last summer at the ranch in southwestern Routt County.

The two cases mark the first time the disease has been found on the Western Slope.

Cases in the state were thought to be confined to northeastern Colorado.

The DOW announced the first case of CWD March 31 and confirmed a second deer tested positive with the disease April 2.

How the deer got the disease is under investigation.

Because of the cases, wildlife officials last week killed 300 deer within a five-mile radius of the Motherwell Ranch, which is at the base of the Beaver Flat Tops southwest of Hayden.

The heads of the deer are being tested in Fort Collins to determine if the disease has spread. Test results for the first 86 of the 300 deer destroyed have come back negative.

The test results for the rest of the deer are expected within the next 72 hours, said Todd Malmsbury, a DOW spokesman.

The disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk causing the animals to starve to death.

A mutant protein causes the disease, and there is not a vaccine or a cure for it. How CWD is spread is not known.

There is also no viable way to test a live animal for the disease.

Routt County officials are interested in what the governor has to say during the meeting, which is expected to last between 45 minutes and an hour.

"There is a lot of concern," Commissioner Doug Monger said. "This area relies on hunting. This could affect the local economy."

Prior to last week's deer culling effort, 281 entrapped wild deer and 43 entrapped wild elk were killed at the Motherwell Ranch during public hunts in January and February.

Although CWD is not linked to any neurological disease that affects humans, officials are urging anyone who has meat from the hunts not to eat it until the testing is complete.

More than 170 deer harvested at the Motherwell Ranch have tested negative for the disease.

None of the 103 captive elk at the facility has been tested for CWD by the Department of Agriculture.

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