December 11, 2023

Colorado Will Cease Culling Herds of Deer and Elk

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In a reversal to what had been an aggressive approach to thwart the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer and elk, the Colorado Department of Wildlife announced it is going to stop killing deer and elk.

The DOW, with the guidance of Mike Miller, the agency’s leading scientist on CWD, had targeted areas where the disease seemed more prevelant and killed off many of the deer and elk in those herds believing this would slow or stop the spread of the disease. Now that a few years have passed and data has been collected, there is no significant information that says it did any good.

There were 16 areas where efforts focused on culling the herd and 16 areas where it was left alone. The result showed no real difference between the two areas.

When Colorado instituted its policy of killing animals, an act that was well intentioned to save the multi-million dollar hunting industry, other states followed in Colorado’s footsteps. Three of those states, Nebraska, S. Dakota and Wisconsin, after hearing of Colorado’s plans to stop culling, announced they would continue their programs of killing animals. As a matter of fact, Wisconsin’s approach has been even more radical than Colorado’s, doing as much as they can to reduce the deer population with aggressive hunting practices.

Chronic wasting disease, similar to mad cow disease, is deadly in these animals. No evidence has yet to be found that humans can contract the disease by eating the meat of an infected animal. You can with mad cow. Scientist don’t completely understand the disease and how it is contracted and spreads. Many believe the spreading is caused when animals congregate in large numbers. The disease is spread through saliva from one animal to another and through animal feces coming in contact with plants and vegetation the animals eat.

One scientist, Charles Southwick, a retired biology professor from the University of Colorado, has said for some time that reducing the herds may actually work in the opposite way. He thinks doing so doesn’t allow for the natural progression for the healthy animals to fight the disease. He is happy to hear of the DOW’s plan to stop the herd culling.

Tom Remington