Craig State wildlife officials will gather in Craig tonight for a public meeting to discuss a number of topics, including chronic wasting disease.
Colorado Wildlife Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos will host the meeting which begins at 7 p.m. at the Shadow Mountain Clubhouse on Moffat County Road 7.
"This meeting is an opportunity for area residents to discuss wildlife issues and ask questions about the Colorado Wildlife Commission and the Division of Wildlife," said Raftopoulos, who lives in Craig. "We will also discuss chronic wasting disease because of the importance of this issue to residents of northwestern Colorado."
Colorado Division of Wildlife Director Russell George, West Region Manager Ron Velarde and Area Wildlife Manager Dan Prenzlow are expected to attend the meeting. The divisions' expert in CWD, veterinarian Mike Miller, will also be in attendance.
Officials are hopeful residents will attend to discuss the fatal brain disease that strikes deer and elk.
The disease has become an issue in Northwest Colorado because 10 deer have been found with the disease in southwestern Routt County.
Four deer killed inside the Motherwell Ranch have tested positive with the disease. Six additional deer killed outside the ranch, which is southwest of Hayden, have also tested positive. The disease attacks the brains, causing the animals to starve to death.
A mutant protein causes CWD, and there is not a vaccine or a cure for it. There is also no way to test a live animal for CWD. The disease is also not linked to any neurological disease that affects humans.
The four deer had been fenced in with a domestic elk herd last summer and they mark the first time deer have been found with the disease on the Western Slope.
These deer tested positive for the disease after wildlife officials culled more than 400 deer and elk found within five miles of the ranch in April.
None of the 135 elk that were killed tested positive with the disease.
The infection rate for deer is less than one percent. The six deer killed outside the ranch were slain in the same area, which is southwest of the ranch.
"It is good news the infection we found is in one place," said Todd Malmsbury, a DOW spokesman.
Malmsbury said a topic that will be discussed tonight is how the DOW plans to deal with the upcoming hunting season.
"Tonight, we will not give any final answers," he said. "The meeting is to allow an exchange of information and for the public to ask questions."
Malmsbury said the DOW is planning to test deer and elk killed during hunting season. What process the DOW will institute is still being worked out.
"We don't know what the answers are because we don't know what are capabilities are," he said.
Deer and elk are being tested for the disease at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Local officials are hopeful a laboratory can be set up in Northwest Colorado in time for the hunting season.
"This meeting is one of many that we have already held in the area," Malmsbury said. "We will hold more later in the year. We are terribly concerned about this issue. We still believe we have a chance to stop this disease in its tracks."
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.
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.