Facts about CWD
May 11, 2002
Steamboat Springs — In reference to your editorial in last Sunday’s paper, I submit the following information with the sincere hope that you can correct some very misleading information:
The federal government genuinely does not know how chronic wasting disease is spread. To speculate on the spreading of the disease would be negligent on their part. I ask your leading veterinarian who told you that CWD is most likely spread through urine and fecal matter to present the research to document this assertion. As a member of the Elk Research Council (a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization to facilitate education and scientific research for the benefit of domestic and non-domestic North American elk) I know of only one research project on soil contamination. This study is being conducted in South Dakota, where a facility that once had CWD elk has been repopulated with non-infected animals. The purpose of this five-year study is to see if CWD is transmissible through the soil. The study is only in its first year, and Dr. Katherine O’Rourke, in Ames, Iowa, is the leading researcher on this project with the ERC as the coordinator of this environmental contamination study.
You ask why the federal government is willing to indemnify the elk ranchers in the endemic area? Under the Animal Health Protection Act ranchers can be indemnified for livestock in an endemic area. Ranchers in an endemic area are prohibited from exporting animals within the state and outside of the state; therefore, they have no market for their livestock. Basically, they are out of business. In addition, these ranchers run the risk of their elk getting CWD from the wild deer and elk populations on the other side of their fences. This was, indeed, the case with an elk rancher in Longmont who had no tracebacks to Elk Echo Ranch but did have a case of CWD in his herd. I can assure you that all elk ranchers and the state and federal agriculture agencies will do what must be done to prevent further outbreaks of CWD.
You would like the wildlife official to talk about what is known about CWD, or what they suspect? For years our Division of Wildlife knew about CWD in the northeastern part of Colorado, but they suspected that CWD animals would not carry this disease over the continental divide. What eight-foot fence was erected to prevent deer and elk from migrating to the Western Slope? Has the DOW been truthful about CWD animals being transported from the Fort Collins research facility to the Meeker and Kremmling facilities? Dr. Beth Williams of the University of Wyoming published a research study indicating four CWD animals, two in Fort Collins, one in Meeker, and one in Kremmling. It is a well-known fact that sick animals were taken from Fort Collins to the other two facilities.
Now, let’s look at the elk rancher. The Motherwell Ranch brought its captive elk to the property in August or September 2001. The incubation period for the disease was not long enough for the deer found with CWD on his property to get it from his elk herd. In addition, none of his captive elk has or is showing any clinical signs of the disease.
I have heard from a number of people who refer to Colorado 13 that goes from Craig to Rifle as Deer Alley. First hand, I have observed hundreds of deer in the pastures off this road and roadkill that I could not count. Could these deer herds be too large, creating a stressful environment for the deer, and therefore making the deer population more susceptible to diseases? I do not know.
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I do know one thing. I would like uninformed people to stop pointing fingers at elk ranchers or suggesting that we must be the cause of CWD, because there were no obvious problems in the past. Food for thought Wyoming does not have any elk ranches, so why do they have CWD in their wildlife?
I highly recommend we all stop trying to place blame on each other and work together to find an inexpensive live test for CWD and a cure.