DENVER -- A major change is coming this year in the regulations for big-game hunters in Colorado.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has put in place mandatory testing for a chronic neurological disease found in deer for selected hunters in three of the state's four regions: Southwest, northwest and northeast. Hunters will be randomly selected in these specified units to submit their harvest for sampling.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a neurological disease primarily seen in deer, but it can also affect moose and elk. It has been in Colorado for a number of years.
“We’re really watching CWD,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Lauren Truitt said. “It’s something no state wants to see spread across their population.”
Parks and Wildlife said it receives about 500,000 applications every year for big-game hunting, and its best form of research comes from hunters.
“Hunters are one of our primary eyes and ears on the ground,” Truitt said. “They provide us with an unprecedented and invaluable resource of what is happening in the backcountry.”
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment recommends humans not consume CWD meat, but it doesn't have current data that show CWD poses a risk when consumed.
“It’s really in a monitoring phase,” Truitt said. “We want to make sure that we know where the potential prevalence is and we can manage and watch those herds more closely than areas where it’s not prevalent or not at all seen.”
CWD sampling sites will be available at all Parks and Wildlife locations, and will be free where testing is required.
Mandatory testing for CWD is not the only big change for hunters.
The state will allow hunters to test out of education courses. It's also the final year to apply for a license on paper. Starting in 2018, applications will only be taken online.
Also, hunters can now wear pink while hunting. Fluorescent pink clothing is allowed as an alternative to fluorescent orange after a bill passed last year.
The deadline for big-game hunting applications is April 4.