Chronic Wasting Disease Spreading In Northwest Colorado's Deer Herds

Feb 28, 2019

Recent testing from state wildlife officials shows about 15 percent of the bucks in what's known as the White River deer herd are infected with the  neurodegenerative disease.

State wildlife officials say chronic wasting disease is on the increase among deer herds on the Western Slope. The animal in the picture is thought to be healthy.
Credit Colorado Parks & Wildlife

This year the herd on the north slope of Grand Mesa was under mandatory testing by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. About five percent of the bucks tested positive.

Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is contagious and always fatal. It affects whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, and moose.

It isn't known to harm humans, but state officials urge caution with a potentially-infected animal.

“There's been no clinical evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans,” said Brad Petch, CPW's Senior Wildlife Biologist for northwest Colorado. “But it seems the better part of valor to not consume infected meat.”

Symptoms of chronic wasting disease don't show up until the last few months of the animal's life. They include emaciation, drooling, and drooping ears.

CPW lets Colorado hunters submit heads or tissue samples to see if the animal they harvested is infected.