CWD testing elicits mixed feelings among hunters |

CWD testing elicits mixed feelings among hunters

Bob Berwyn

According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, about 20 percent of hunters in the state are submitting samples for CWD testing. One collection point is at the CDOW office near Hot Sulphur Springs, perched on a sun-drenched bluff above the Colorado River.As the last copper-colored cottonwood leaves drift to the ground with a papery rustle, a pair of hunters from Austin, Texas unload several bull elk heads from the back of their truck. With the help of Area Wildlife Manager Rob Firth, they cut off the top off the skull with a bow saw so they can take the rack back to Texas, but leave the rest of the head for sampling. When they finish, the wobbly pink brain is exposed, contrasting starkly with the elk’s bristly brown fur, darkened by dried blood.Part of the brain slips out of the skull and lands in the gravel parking lot in a spatter of blood. The three men are working bare-handed and Firth acknowledges that he’s not being as cautious as the agency recommends in its own hunter guidelines.The hunters, 29-year-old Mike Ashby and 59-year-old Terry Leifeste, have filled out the necessary forms, so Firth stuffs the heads into a draw-string garbage bag, attaches the paper work and hauls the bags to a walk-in refrigerator, where they’re piled together with other bagged elk heads, awaiting delivery to the CSU lab in Fort Collins.&quotI don’t personally think the probability is very high that it’s transmissible to humans,&quot says Lefeiste. &quotI’m a cattle rancher. I’ve been through the Mad Cow scare, and I’ve tried to educate myself. I’ve studied it and I went to seminars.&quotBut while he won’t let the potential threat of CWD spoil his hunt, Lefeiste says he’s not sure if he’d eat the meat if the elk tests positive. &quotI haven’t even thought about it yet,&quot he says. &quotAnyway, it’s worth the $17 for the test for the peace of mind.&quotThe same goes for Casey Weimer, a hunter from nearby Hot Sulphur Springs, who carries another elk head with the top of its skull lopped off, like a crewcut gone terribly awry. Weimer says he’s not worried about the disease but decided to have the animal tested anyway, just to be sure. He shot the elk on Ute Pass, just a few miles east of where Galloway shot his CWD-infected bull. Still, Weimer says his family has started eating the meat of an elk that his father shot a few days before, not waiting for the test results on that animal.

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