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Photo courtesy of CPW.

Southwest Colorado deer hunters must now bring their harvested animal heads to sampling stations to be tested for a “zombie deer” disease, also known as chronic wasting disease. 

Precautionary testing is critical in helping Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) monitor the spread of chronic wasting disease across deer herds in Colorado. 

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease found in deer, elk, and moose. Symptoms of infected animals are said to be 'zombie-like,' including emaciation, excessive salivation, lack of muscle coordination, loss of bodily functions, and abnormal behavior, such as lack of fear of humans. There is no known cure and the disease is always fatal. While chronic wasting disease is not known to infect humans, it is strongly recommended that hunters do not eat meat from infected animals.

The following Game Management Units in southwest Colorado are where testing is being required this season: 411, 52, 521, 53, 54, 55, 60, 63,66,67,68, 70, 71,72,73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 78, 79,80, 81, 82, 83, 681, 682, 711, 741, 751, 771 and 791.

The testing service is free and individual results normally post about three weeks out from the time of submission. Hunters who have harvested deer in Game Management Units other than those listed above, or harvested any elk or moose, may also voluntarily submit their animal for testing for a fee of $25 per animal.

Hunters will be required to present their license and an accurate location of where the animal was harvested for testing submission. Harvest locations are kept confidential, according to CPW.

For testing, the head of the animal should be removed 4 inches below the lower jawbone and the base of the skull. Heads should also be brought in as soon as possible for testing, preferably within five days of harvest. Heads should be kept cool, but not frozen, if possible, in the meantime. Hunters also must leave the head until a sample can be taken, possibly up to a day.

According to CPW, hunters whose deer tests positive for chronic wasting disease will be notified by "a single phone call attempt, email, and a mailed letter.

Animal heads can be taken to the four area wildlife offices in the southwest region, which includes the following: Durango, 151 E. 16th Street, 970-247-0855; Gunnison, 300 W. New York Ave., 970-641-7060; Monte Vista, 0721 S Road 1 East, 719-587-6900; Montrose, 2300 S. Townsend Ave (U.S. Highway 550), 970-252-6000.

Hunters also have the option take animal heads to some other testing sites. For a list of submission sites and locations, click here. For hunting season dates and fees, click here.

Breanna Sneeringer writes about news, adventure, and more for OutThere Colorado as a Digital Content Producer. She is an avid adventure seeker and wildflower enthusiast. Breanna joined OutThere Colorado in September 2018.

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