Wildlife Commission Requires CWD Tests Meet Federal Standards

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Hunters whose deer, elk or moose test positive for chronic wasting disease this fall will only be reimbursed for the cost of their license and game processing if the test meets federal approval.

The Colorado Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a regulation requiring approved tests at its meeting in Durango on Thursday.

“Tests have become available in the private sector that have not been validated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” said Mike King, regulations manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “In Wisconsin last year, hunters had deer test positive for CWD with these unapproved tests.

“Subsequent tests using approved procedures found that the animals were actually negative for CWD, causing confusion for hunters and Wisconsin wildlife officials," King added.

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is a fatal, brain-wasting disease that was first found in deer and elk for more than two decades in portions of northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming. The contagious disease has now spread to northwestern Colorado, central Wyoming, and portions of six other states and one Canadian province. It has also been found in captive elk in a number of other states and Canadian provinces, and as far away as South Korea. There is no cure for CWD and infected animals invariably die.

The DOW provides hunters with an opportunity to have deer, elk and moose they harvest tested through Colorado State University’s Diagnostic Laboratory. Hunters need only take their animal to one of more than a dozen DOW locations this hunting season where a sample will be taken. The test results will be made available within two weeks. The cost is $15 per animal.

For details on the location where samples will be collected, check the DOW Web site at www.wildlife.state.co.us/.

The Commission also approved a regulation temporarily closing mountain lion hunting in portions of game management units 61, 62 and 70 to allow a mountain lion study to take place on the Uncompahgre Plateau. The southern portions of 61 and 62 and the northern part of 70 will be closed to lion hunting for five years, from Nov. 11, 2004, through March 31, 2009. Hunting will then resume in November of 2009.

The 10-year study will allow DOW researchers to research lion behavior, populations and the impacts of hunting. The information will be used by DOW wildlife managers responsible for lion management.

The Commission also approved a regulation lifting bag-and-possession limits on perch in Blue Mesa Reservoir west of Gunnison.

“Perch were illegally introduced into Blue Mesa and pose a serious threat to the kokanee salmon population,” King said. Blue Mesa is Colorado’s top kokanee salmon fishing spot and salmon stage an annual run out the reservoir and up the East River to the Roaring Judy Hatchery where some are captured as they attempt to spawn.

In a process similar to that which occurs each year in the Pacific Northwest, DOW hatchery workers then take eggs and sperm from the kokanee and use them to produce kokanee fry that will be release the following spring to begin the process anew.

Roaring Judy also provides salmon fry for other reservoirs in the state, creating popular fisheries that would not otherwise exist in Colorado.

“We hope that by lifting the bag-and-possession limits we will encourage anglers to catch and keep as many perch as they can to help keep the population in check,” King said.

Perch, native to the north-central United States and portions of Canada, will feed on the kokanee fry, reducing their numbers so severely that the annual kokanee run and the fishery in Blue Mesa and elsewhere will decline.

Stocking of any species into public waters is both illegal and unethical and carries a fine of as much as $5,000. Anyone convicted of illegal stocking could also be held liable for the cost of removing the species from the lake or subsequent damage caused by the illegal act.

The Commission also approved a new regulation requiring that only flies and lures be allowed on a pond the DOW recently acquired in Adams County. The acquisitions of the South Platte Fishing Lakes, North, South and West, are the result of the agency's ongoing efforts to open new public fisheries near the state’s urban areas.

Only flies and lures will be allowed on North Lake because the large fish in the lake would be vulnerable to bait. The other two lakes will be managed as “put and take” waters where fish will be stocked with the goal of providing immediate fishing recreation.