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Deer, Elk and Science

The Denver Post, in its editorial supporting a ban on elk importation ("Protect state's herds," Jan. 20), based its opinion on speculation rather than science.

The Wildlife Commission banned importing elk unless the animals have been monitored for chronic wasting disease for five years. There are currently no elk herds in the U.S. that meet these requirements. The consensus in the scientific community is that CWD has an incubation period of 16 to 36 months. The five-year monitoring requirement is based on the testimony of Mike Miller, state veterinarian for the Division of Wildlife, whose research herd is claimed to be the source of CWD and whose testimony is suspect.

Miller claims that one elk in the state research herd contracted CWD 58 months after it arrived. But it is impossible to determine the date of infection.

A proximity study was being conducted only one pen away, where infected deer were kept alongside cattle. The fact that the elk was in the adjacent pen for 58 months means very little because the animal could have been infected much more recently.

The state veterinarian and the elk industry agreed to a 60-month moratorium because it was a compromise, not because we agreed with Miller's pseudo-science.

The real problem with CWD in Colorado is not importation of elk, but the infected deer and elk already here in the wild. CWD has been in the Colorado wild for nearly 35 years, and endemic areas have an incidence rate as high as 18 percent. And it is very likely the source for the recent occurrence.

Penrose, CO
President of the Colorado Elk Breeders Association



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