Idaho elk herd bought from Colorado ranch to be destroyed

October 3, 2001 Associated Press by Mark Warbis
All 37 elk that Ron Stigall bought last winter to start his Cross Canyon Elk Ranch near Salmon will be destroyed because they came from a Colorado operation where an elk was found to have chronic wasting disease.

Dr. Phil Mamer, a veterinary medical officer for the Idaho Department of Agriculture, said Stigall's ranch was quarantined on Sept. 19 after it was learned its elk came from the Rancho Anta Grande in Del Norte, Colo.

Stigall declined comment on Wednesday. "The elk came in legally. He complied with all our rules," Mamer said. "The ranch he purchased them from in Colorado had never had a positive test for chronic wasting disease."

None of Stigall's elk have shown symptoms of the degenerative brain disease found in free-ranging deer and elk in parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska, as well as captive elk in Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Before symptoms appear, the only way to determine if the exposed animals may be carrying the disease is to kill them and test a portion of their brain stem.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a $2.6 million program to compensate commercial elk producers from $1,000 to $3,000 per head for animals destroyed to prevent the disease's spread. Stigall and state officials were determining the commercial value of his herd on Wednesday.

"Evidently some of the Cross Canyon elk had both fence-line contact and had been in the pen with the elk that died in Colorado," Mamer said. "We are going to euthanize the original 37 that came from Colorado and test them, and if they're all negative then he can keep his calves that were born here in Idaho."

He said the elk probably would be destroyed within two or three weeks.

Mamer said authorities were still waiting for more information from Colorado to determine whether any of the 80 other commercial herds in Idaho might have been exposed to infected Colorado elk. He said none of Stigall's elk have left the Salmon-area ranch since they were purchased.

There are about 2,500 captive elk being raised throughout Idaho.

So far, five of the estimated 14,000 captive elk in Colorado have tested positive for chronic wasting disease, including the one at Rich Forrest's Rancho Anta Grande in Colorado's San Luis Valley about 160 miles southeast of Denver.

All 400 of Forrest's elk also will be slaughtered and tested for the disease that causes unsteadiness, excessive slobbering, confusion and death. Another 700 will be destroyed in the next few days at the Elk Echo Ranch near Stoneham, Colo. The disease also has been found on elk ranches in Cowdrey and Longmont, Colo.

A ban on the transport of domestic elk from Colorado has been put in place for 30 days as officials attempt to track animals shipped from seven licensed ranches currently under quarantine.

There are no documented cases of the disease infecting humans, but it is closely related to mad cow disease, which has killed about 100 Europeans.

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