Cases of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) are on the rise in the United States and Colorado is no exception. CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that is found in ungulate species like mule and white-tailed deer, moose, elk, and many more.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the disease "has been found in more than half of the deer herds and about one third of elk herds." In response to the high infection rate in several of the State's herds, CPW drafted a plan that directs "future management of deer, elk and moose herds with high levels of CWD infection."
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) submitted a comment letter to Colorado Parks and Wildlife regarding its draft plan, with the Mountain Lion Foundation and WildEarth Guardians signing on in support. Their letter expressed the importance of large carnivores, like mountain lions, in reducing the spread of CWD. The HSUS also emphasized that the excessive trophy hunting of mountain lions in the State was impacting the spread of CWD throughout wild ungulate populations by reducing lion populations to lower than natural levels. They suggested reducing the amount of trophy hunting permitted in CWD hot spots to allow for predators to fulfill their ecological role.
CWD is highly infectious and is easily transmitted through saliva and feces. As such, it is imperative that livestock and wild ungulates be kept separate through more efficient fencing practices. Given that livestock typically occur in higher densities and symptoms of the disease are not immediately apparent, the spread of CWD might go unnoticed, leading to a significant financial impact through livestock loss.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife will be reviewing public feedback and will meet in January to vote on final management actions.