State to pay ranchers if healthy elk killed over wasting disease

October 8, 2001 Associated Press
State officials have agreed to reimburse ranchers up to 80 percent of the worth of any healthy elk that must be killed to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.

The state Captive Wildlife and Alternative Livestock board agreed to the compensation Friday. Program officials have traced 148 diseased elk sold near Longmont, in Saskatchewan, near Stoneham and near Del Norte to ranches in Colorado, board chairman Jim Rubingh said.

The state expects more than 1,600 animals to be destroyed. Ranchers will be paid up to $3,000 per head for animals that test negative for the disease, Rubingh said.

The compensation will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $2.6 million indemnification fund and the board's own $192,000 fund, which elk breeders support by paying $8 per head of elk per year for such emergencies, Rubingh said.

Elk breeders from across the country have offered to help replace animals, said Ron Walker, president of the Colorado Elk Breeders Association.

"We are like family and want to keep ranchers in business," he said.

So far the disease has not been found in wild elk, state Division of Wildlife spokesman Todd Malmsbury said.

However, division officers are shooting 10 mule deer and 10 elk that were known to have been within a mile of the Del Norte facility.

Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of infected animals, causing them to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and die.

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

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