DENVER — State agents must kill 300 deer in western Colorado to check a dangerous disease that crossed the Continental Divide and jeopardizes the multimillion-dollar hunting industry, an official said Wednesday.
Last week Gov. Bill Owens said chronic wasting disease, a brain-rotting disease akin to mad cow disease, was discovered in western Colorado among wild deer. "This is potentially a very serious business for Colorado. Until now, one of our best weapons for containing the disease was the Continental Divide. Now that barrier has been broken," Owens said at the time of the announcement.
The news came as a surprise because until now the disease was believed confined to northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, at least 100 miles away. Officials have not yet figured out how the disease spread over the Continental Divide.
The disease has been present in other U.S. states over the years, but since February cases have been detected in Wisconsin and northwest Nebraska.
While there has been no evidence that chronic wasting can spread to humans, the World Health Organization has advised against eating venison or any part of an animal showing signs of the disease.
The disease, which causes its victims to grow thin, is similar to mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, which has never been found in the United States but has been found in Europe