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Elk wasting disease contained
But reining in outbreak costly

December 5, 2001 The Denver Post by Theo Stein
Tests on the remaining 20 ranched elk targeted during an investigation into a chronic wasting disease outbreak suggests the epidemic has been contained, to the relief of Colorado agriculture and wildlife officials.

The months-long investigation uncovered 11 cases of the fatal brain-wasting malady. But the effort has cost Colorado well over half a million dollars and sapped the budgets of the state veterinarian and the Division of Wildlife. 'We feel we have really gotten a hold of the situation as far as the spread of the disease is concerned,' said Colorado's state veterinarian Wayne Cunningham on Tuesday. 'It was much less than what we anticipated.'

But the delayed release of $ 15 million in proposed federal assistance may hamstring Colorado's efforts to eliminate 1,500 elk in nine quarantined herds.

To determine how far the disease had spread, agriculture officials tracked about 155 elk raised on a Stoneham ranch at the center of the outbreak. The animals, which were killed in order to be tested, had been sold to 20 Colorado ranches.

Now, officials are particularly anxious to remove the 500 or so elk from quarantined ranches in the San Luis Valley and North Park to prevent spread of the disease to game herds.

'Every day those animals sit there, we're increasing the possibility this could establish itself in the wild,' said Colorado Division of Wildlife veterinarian Mike Miller, a pioneering researcher of the disease. 'Everyone is doing everything they can, but the bottom line is those animals need to be removed as soon as possible.'

The delay is also a hardship for affected ranchers, who must still feed animals they know will be destroyed.

Colorado has already spent $ 550,000 on the control effort and has no money to reimburse the owners of Rancho Anta Grande in Del Norte and the Trophy Mountain Hunting Ranch in Cowdrey, Cunningham said.

In October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released $ 2.6 million in emergency assistance to help Colorado and other states track the spread of the disease.

Officials have asked the USDA to provide another $ 15 million in assistance to help reimburse ranchers for the loss of 1,500 elk in nine quarantined facilities.

But Cunningham said the release of the funds has been delayed by at least seven or eight weeks. A USDA spokeswoman said the agency does not discuss proposed agriculture programs until notice is published in the Federal Register.

The federal program caps reimbursement at $ 3,000 per animal, far less than many of the elk are worth.

On Tuesday, Kansas officials said they'd recorded the first confirmed case in the state's history after tests on a Colorado elk came back positive.

Kansas Livestock Commissioner George Teagarten said the state intends to destroy about a dozen elk that had contact with the mature 'hunt bull.'

So far, tests of exposed Colorado elk sold to ranchers in Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, Missouri and Pennsylvania have yielded no positive cases. Results from elk sent to ranches in nine other states are not yet available.

Chronic wasting disease is a fatal malady that attacks the brains of infected deer and elk, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions before they die. The malady, a relative of mad cow disease, infects a small percentage of the wild deer and elk in a 15,000 square-mile area of northeast Colorado and southern Wyoming.

It's also been found in 21 ranched herds in the U.S. and at least 29 herds in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.


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Organic Consumers Association - 6771 South Silver Hill Drive, Finland MN 55603
E-mail: Staff · Activist or Media Inquiries: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652
Please support our work. Send a tax-deductible donation to the OCA

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.
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