CWD Found Near Craig

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Governor Bill Owens announced today that a hunter-killed, wild mule deer taken within a captive elk ranch located near Craig, Colorado was infected with chronic wasting disease. Two other mule deer, also taken from within the same facility are suspected to have been infected, according to preliminary test results.

The findings came as laboratory results for 281 deer killed by hunters and Division of Wildlife officials within the 1,800-acre facility are being completed. Division of Wildlife managers initiated the herd reduction actions after the facility's owner erected a fence for his captive elk and entrapped the wild deer.

Governor Owens stated, 'This spread of chronic wasting disease is serious news for the State of Colorado. Until now, one of our best weapons for containing the disease was the Continental Divide. Now that barrier has been broken.'

'These findings are most disturbing,' said Russell George, director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife. 'As an agency we are focused on containing and reducing this disease. News of this nature hits hard and emphasizes how important it is for us to get ahead of this devastating disease.'

Division of Wildlife officials will begin Monday to remove at least 300 animals within a five-mile radius of the facility. The sampling effort will provide wildlife managers with an initial indication if the disease is present in free-roaming deer and elk outside the facility.

It is unknown how the infected deer was exposed to chronic wasting disease. The nearest diagnosed case of the disease in wild deer or elk is located approximately 120 miles east of Larimer County.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease found in free-roaming deer and elk in northeastern Colorado in 17 game management units - encompassing about 9 percent of the state's entire area. On average, the rate of infection in the affected (or endemic) area is between four percent and five percent in deer and less than one percent in elk. The disease attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose coordination and eventually die.