Thursday, October 31, 2002
Steamboat Springs There are high hopes the next big-game hunting season will improve the already successful harvest, while the strong numbers of animals being tested for chronic wasting disease this fall are proving valuable.
Colorado Division of Wildlife area biologist Jim Hicks said overall, harvests look to be strong. Locally, the first season probably was a little better than the second, he said.
"I think this will be a pretty good season," he said.
The next season starts Saturday and ends Nov. 8. The snow on the ground could provide a lot of opportunity for hunters. Snow helps in tracking and cold weather brings the animals down to lower elevations, where most of the hunters are.
The animal processing operation at Steamboat Meat and Seafood Co. was at full capacity during the previous hunting season, which ended last week, owner Bill Hamil said. He expects it to be the same next week.
Looking at the number of animals the business processes is one way to unofficially gauge the success of hunters this fall.
Hamil said the business processed about 500 animals since rifle hunting started Oct. 12.
"We are just a little above normal and we still have the second and third combined seasons to go," he said.
The business is taking some special precautions because of CWD. They are de-boning the animal, instead of just cutting through the bones, Hamil said.
He said many hunters going through the business are getting their animals tested for the disease.
As of Monday, at least 8,000 elk and deer have been tested for the disease during Colorado's 2002 rifle hunting season, Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Todd Malmsbury said.
A special program has been set up during the rifle seasons to submit the animals for testing, and hunters are urged to test the animals before eating the meat. Wildlife officials have roughly guessed 20 percent of animals harvested this fall have been tested for the malady, Malmsbury said.
Thirty-seven have tested positive, 10 of which are outside the endemic area, north of Fort Collins, according to the DOW.
The latest three cases were announced Thursday. Two were bull elk, one taken in Grand County near Grand Lake and the other in Rio Blanco County, four miles north of Buford. The other was a deer found west of Chatfield Reservoir on the Front Range.
The large numbers of animals being tested outside the endemic area are proving to be an asset for DOW officials understanding of the disease.
"We are going to have a much-improved picture of CWD in Colorado when the hunting seasons end in January," Malmsbury said.
The DOW has tested thousands of animals in the past, but hunters paying the $17 to test their animals this fall will provide a better, broader glimpse of the disease's presence in the wild.
"We are certainly pleased to get a large number of animals from hunters," Malmsbury said.