Hunters who harvest deer in the Gunnison Basin this season are required to submit the animals’ heads for testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD). If you are hunting in any of these Game Management Units – 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67 – CWD testing is mandatory. No evidence exists that CWD exists in the region. But the Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is involved in ongoing surveys to determine if the disease is spreading in Colorado, explained J Wenum, area wildlife manager for the DOW in Gunnison. “Research shows that CWD spreads most quickly among bucks, and hunters know there are a lot of bucks in this area,” Wenum said. “It’s our job to protect and manage the state’s wildlife. The DOW is doing this as a precaution to help in determining the presence or absence of CWD in the Gunnison Basin.” Wildlife managers have known of the presence of CWD in northeastern Colorado for more than 20 years. CWD was found in northwest Colorado in 2002. CWD is a fatal neurological disease found in deer and elk. It occurs when an abnormally folded infectious protein known as a prion, causes normal protein to become malformed and infectious as well Scientists have learned much about the disease during the last 10 years. They know it can spread from animal to animal, and that it is found in the environment in areas where animals have died. But exactly how prions convert normal protein into abnormal prions is still not known. “That is one of the remaining questions about CWD,” said Kathi Green disease management coordinator for the DOW. To control the spread of CWD, the DOW evaluates areas of the state on a case-by-case basis. Special hunts may be used to remove animals from localized areas where there is CWD infection. The evaluations and analysis are ongoing. “The DOW continues to devote substantial resources to the CWD issue,” Green said. Ongoing investigations by state and federal public health officials have shown no causal relationship between CWD and human health problems. Health officials advise, however, that meat from animals known to be infected not be consumed.
Tips for Gunnison Basin Hunters “Hunter cooperation for this effort is critical,” said Wenum. “The DOW needs your help to monitor deer herd health and determine future management actions”. Testing in these game management units is free when heads are delivered to DOW locations. In Gunnison, take heads to the DOW Service Center, 300 New York Avenue. The center will be open for head submissions from 8 a.m. to noon, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Aug. 27 – through Sept. 25, and from Oct. 15 through Nov. 20. The office will be closed Sept. 5 and Nov. 11. Call (970) 641-7060 for more information. For a list of other submission sites, go to: www.wildlife.state.co.us/CWD. The Web site also supplies much more information about CWD.
Hunters are asked to follow these guidelines:
- Avoid shooting the animal in the head;
- Lymph nodes in the throat are used for testing. Remove the head below the first vertebrae – about two inches to four inches below the point where the neck joins the skull;
- If you intend to keep the skull for mounting, arrangements must be made for tissue removal through a participating veterinarian;
- Antlers can be removed by cutting the skull plate;
- The DOW suggests consulting a taxidermist before your hunt to learn proper skinning procedures if you desire to keep the cape;
- Submit heads within five days of harvest. Keep head cool, but not frozen; do not place head in water;
- Attach a CWD Testing Tag to the head or bring it with you. The tag is below the carcass tag on your license;
- Know the kill date and know the location of the kill on a topographic map or with GPS coordinates;
- Heads can also be submitted to participating veterinarians. A list will be posted on the DOW Web site;
- If you see an animal that appears to be sick, do not shoot it. Note the location and inform DOW officials.
Tests also results can be found at www.wildlife.state.co.us/CWD, or by calling 1-800-434-0274. See page 10 of the 2005 Big Game Brochure for information on testing and turnaround time. For more information, call (970) 641-7060.