Up to 20 deer will be tagged and monitored. Wildlife authorities ask for public understanding and cooperation.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife (DOW) is investigating the circumstances surrounding the recent discovery of a deer infected with chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Colorado Springs. As part of their analysis, the DOW plans to capture and tag up to 20 deer in the southwest part of the city.
“We’re hoping this is an isolated incident,” said Area Wildlife Manager Dave Clippinger. “Multiple techniques will be used to find out how widespread the disease may be. Once that is determined, we can begin to address management plans.”
In the coming weeks, DOW personnel will attempt to capture deer using tranquilizer darts. The purpose of capturing deer is three-fold. The field crew will mark the captured deer with ear tags and radio collars to help biologists understand herd movements. While deer are in-hand, DOW veterinarians will collect blood for genetic evaluation and take a tissue biopsy from each deer’s tonsil to test for CWD.
Biologists will track the movements of the radio-collared deer to learn if they migrate seasonally, as has been seen in some urban deer in the northern Front Range. This is the first time this method will be used in Colorado Springs.
If any of the tonsil samples test positive for CWD, wildlife officers will be able to trace the signal from the radio collar and remove the animal.
The DOW is asking residents in southwest Colorado Springs for their cooperation and understanding during this project. In some instances, it might be necessary for DOW crews to capture deer on private property.
DOW employees will ask permission prior to going onto someone’s land.
“Every attempt will be made to gain consent from homeowners, but after an animal is hit by a tranquilizer dart it sometimes runs unpredictably before coming under the effects of the drug, and may end up in adjacent yards,” Clippinger said.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological illness of mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk. Most researchers believe an aberrant prion protein that misfolds in the brain causes the disease, destroying brain tissues as it progresses. Clinical signs include staggering, sluggishness, excessive salivation and slowly deteriorating body condition.
Animals with CWD have been found in portions of northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming for more than two decades. In recent years, wildlife officials identified CWD in deer in northwest Colorado, eight other states and in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.
The DOW reminds Colorado Springs residents that it is illegal to feed deer. Anecdotal evidence points to feeding as a major factor in the disease’s relatively high prevalence in urban areas and subdivisions in Estes Park and locations northwest of Fort Collins.
“People tend to think that they are helping wild animals when they feed them, but in reality, feeding wildlife always causes more problems than it solves,” Clippinger said.
Residents who see deer or elk that appear sick or injured should call the DOW’s Colorado Springs Office at (719) 227-5200.