COLLBRAN, Colo. — The search for three ranchers who disappeared after a huge mudslide in a remote part of western Colorado was called off Tuesday as authorities turned their attention to monitoring for another potential slide.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said conditions were too unstable to keep looking.

‘‘We don’t want to create any more tragedy than we already have,’’ he said.

The three men were checking on problems with an irrigation ditch caused by an initial slide Sunday when a large chunk of a ridge broke off, sending soggy earth spilling like wet cement for 3 miles. The slide was about three-quarters of a mile across and several hundred feet deep at the center.


The men were Clancy Nichols, 51, who also worked as a county road and bridge employee; his son Danny Nichols, 24; and Wes Hawkins, 46, who worked for the water district.

A depression created by the slide has been filling with spring runoff since Sunday’s big slide, and it is unclear whether it will contain all of it.

Hilkey has said the slide most likely was triggered by runoff from Grand Mesa — one of the world’s largest flat-topped mountains — following two days of strong rain.

The slide occurred in a rural area with no structures, but other residents could be affected by another slide. Authorities are considering putting in place an early warning system to help protect them.

Associated Press