Deer, elk culling efforts continue

100 more animals have been killed this week in effort to control CWD

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— Division of Wildlife officials have killed about 100 deer and elk since Monday around a Routt County ranch where a chronic wasting disease outbreak has been discovered.

Weather has hampered the efforts of 32 DOW agents killing deer and elk around a five-mile radius of the Motherwell Ranch, which is southwest of Hayden.

By Wednesday morning, agents had killed about 100 deer and elk, with the majority being deer, said Todd Malmsbury, a DOW spokesman.

"What we have killed is not near the number we have had in previous operations," said Ron Velarde, DOW Western Slope manager.

Since Monday, officials started to kill all deer and elk within a five-mile radius of the ranch because five deer have tested positive for the fatal brain disease. Officials also want to kill as many deer and elk in the area before spring migration.

Two of the deer with the disease were killed inside the ranch's fence. They were fenced in with a domestic elk herd last summer.

Because these deer tested positive for CWD, wildlife officials killed 311 deer between April 1-3. This action resulted in two more CWD-positive deer.

Last week, officials killed 18 more deer in the area where the two deer were killed.

Over the weekend, a deer from that effort tested positive for CWD.

Because of this, wildlife officials decided to be aggressive and kill all deer and elk in the area in hopes of avoiding the spread of the CWD outbreak.

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

The disease has been found in deer and elk herds in five states, which include parts of Wyoming, Nebraska and South Dakota. Cases in Colorado were thought to be confined to the northern part of the state.

So far, the weather has been a factor in the culling effort. Wet weather has kept agents off some private lands so these properties are not damaged by all-terrain vehicles, Velarde said.

Strong winds have also limited the use of a helicopter that has been used in previous efforts to move herds off ridges to lower areas.

"The wind has been real tough," Malmsbury said. "It is also difficult country. We are hoping to pick up the pace."

Velarde said he does not expect for the number of deer and elk killed to be significant because of the number of deer that have already been killed prior to Monday.

"We have done quite a lot so far," he said.

Agents have been hunting the animals from sunrise to dusk, he said.

The heads of the deer and elk killed will be tested for CWD in Fort Collins. The carcasses will be disposed of by an incinerator.

Culling efforts will end Friday evening. Velarde said future culling efforts in the area could take place in July, but the plan is not definite.

The Motherwell Ranch is also being impacted because of the outbreak. The Department of Agriculture plans to eliminate the ranch of the 140 elk it currently houses.

Officials are not sure when the elk will be killed. However, the department has quarantined the facility to ensure none of the elk leave the premises. Once the elk are killed, they also will be tested for CWD.

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