Culling Continues Near Ante Grande Elk Ranch

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Employees of the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) continue to cull deer and elk in the vicinity of the Anta Grande elk ranch near Del Norte.

The DOW is testing the animals for chronic wasting disease (CWD). "Our goal is to collect 300 samples this year," said Area Wildlife Manager Jeff Madison.

"The laboratory work is not finished yet, but so far all of the wild deer and elk samples collected from outside the Anta Grande ranch property have tested negative for CWD. We will continue to test for CWD for the foreseeable future," he said.

In September 2001, an elk at the Anta Grande facility died of CWD. Based on an investigation by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, it was determined the captive elk inside the facility were exposed to CWD by elk purchased from another captive elk ranch. Because of the exposure, the Department of Agriculture required all elk inside the ranch destroyed and tested for CWD. Two of the Anta Grande elk tested positive.

Last fall, the DOW erected a "double-fence" around the property and began culling wild deer and elk outside the facility to determine if any wild animals were infected. "The DOW is trying to determine the extent, if any, that CWD might be present in the wild deer and elk around the ranch. By sampling the wild deer and elk, we will get better information about how to manage our efforts to combat the disease," said Madison.

According to Madison, the DOW has collected about 120 samples so far. The DOW killed some of the deer and elk, and some of the samples came from hunters. In addition, the DOW obtains samples from road-kill deer and elk.

The DOW will continue to collect samples throughout the summer. Next fall, the DOW will ask hunters on the west side of the San Luis Valley to voluntarily submit deer and elk heads at several collection sites beginning with the archery and black-powder seasons. "At this point, we do not want samples from the entire San Luis Valley, but want to focus our attention on the animals harvested around Del Norte," said Madison.

Madison wants residents in the Del Norte area to be aware it is possible some DOW collection efforts will take place at night when deer and elk frequent the alfalfa fields located near Anta Grande. "We are going to try to limit our activities to normal daylight hours, but there will be times when we have to shoot animals at night," he said.

CWD is a neurological disease found in deer and elk. It belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). The disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk. Over time, it causes tiny holes to form in brain tissue that causes the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and "waste away."

CWD is always fatal and there is no known cure. At this time, there is no practical live test for CWD in deer and elk. The animals must be killed to collect brain tissue samples that are sent to a laboratory.