Has Moab’s deer herd grown too large? Experts believe so

a deer with chronic wasting disease
This deer suffering with Chronic Wasting Disease is not from the Moab herd. This photograph was taken in the Midwest in 2009. CWD has affected herds of deer, elk and moose in 24 states, two Canadian provinces and three Scandinavian countries as of January, according to CWD-INFO.org. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Wikimedia Commons

With more than a third of documented cases of chronic wasting disease in Utah deer occurring in the Manti-La Sal unit — which includes the deer living in and around Moab — officials with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources are concerned about the abundance of urban deer in Moab, especially with the prevalence of CWD in the region.

So said C. Aaron Bott, DWR Conservation Outreach manager for the Southeastern Region based in Price.

Bott, in answering a query from The Times-Independent, said thinning the herd has been discussed as an option. With no natural predators in town other than the occasional cougar — and unsuspecting motorists – the herd continues to grow.

“Reducing the herd via culling is an option we have discussed,” said Bott. “However, this is obviously a very sensitive topic. It would take a lot of education, discussion, and collaboration with the Moab community if we choose to pursue this path. Understandably, some residents might be upset by this procedure, but it is probably the best thing to do as people see more diseased deer dying in town.

Doing nothing could be even more devastating as CWD could conceivably wipe out the entire herd.

“CWD is very contagious and there are no treatments or vaccines to help the deer,” said Bott. “We know CWD is already spreading among the deer and we need to mitigate this as much as possible in order to maintain a healthy herd for the future. But at this point, no official decision has been made.”