| DENVER - More than 850 elk in
three Colorado commercial herds are under threat of being destroyed in
an attempt to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is related
to an illness that has caused human deaths.|
The three herds have been quarantined in an effort to prevent spread of the disease through the state's 150 commercial herds, the Colorado Department of Agriculture announced Friday.
"We're deeply concerned by the positive cases, so we've taken quick steps to eliminate the possibility of the disease spreading to other domestic elk herds in Colorado," state agriculture commissioner Don Ament said.
"These actions are in place to protect not only domestic herds but also the wildlife population, where chronic wasting disease is more prevalent," he said.
The agriculture department has applied for about $2 million in federal funds to compensate the ranchers if the herds have to be slaughtered, said Dr. Wayne Cunningham, state veterinarian. If federal funds are not received, the state may have to destroy the animals considered at highest risk, he said. The owners would then be compensated through an existing fund established by elk breeders.
In Colorado, chronic wasting disease is confined to wild herds in the northeastern section of the state from west of Estes Park to the Nebraska border, according to the Division of Wildlife. From 1 to 15 percent of the deer and elk are estimated to be infected.