Park Service allocates $900,000 to fight CWD

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Sick Deer Push Park To Action

May 17, 2002
 
BY ROBERT GEHRKE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

  WASHINGTON -- Officials at Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado said Thursday that they are rushing to craft a strategy to combat chronic wasting disease in protected deer and elk herds inside the park.

   Until such a plan is in place, the management of deer and elk inside the park will continue to stand in stark contrast to how herds are treated outside the boundaries.

   Immediately east of the park, thousands of deer and elk have been rounded up and killed to prevent the spread of the lethal brain malady.

   Inside the park, only deer or elk that test positive for wasting disease can be destroyed, said Randy Jones, deputy director of the National Park Service and the former Rocky Mountain superintendent.

  Chronic wasting disease has been detected in captive and wild deer and elk in parts of Colorado, as well as Wisconsin, Wyoming, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, and South Dakota and into Canada, said Michael Miller of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

   It is closely related to mad cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which infects humans. Infected animals become weak and develop brain lesions. It is always fatal, but is not believed to be transmissible outside of deer or elk.

   This week the Park Service made $900,000 available to address wasting disease in the park, including research into better testing methods and improved radio tracking of herds, Jones told a House committee during a hearing Thursday. Another $300,000 is being spent in Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, which is adjacent to a herd that has tested positive for wasting disease.

   In the coming weeks, the Park Service will begin the environmental studies required before implementing a comprehensive deer and elk management strategy, Jones said.

   Tony Schetzsle, acting superintendent for Rocky Mountain National Park, said there are an estimated 500 deer in the Estes Valley, the far eastern portion of park that borders the infected areas. About 25 deer in the park are believed to be infected and four have been killed.
 

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