78 deer, 1 elk killed in CWD program

January 12, 2002 Omaha World-Herald by Larry Porter
Forty-two wild deer and one elk, plus 36 confined white-tailed deer, have been killed since Tuesday in an area of the Pine Ridge where chronic wasting disease has been found in captive whitetail deer and elk herds.

Although only deer were to be targeted, the wild elk was killed because it interacted through a fence with captive elk owned by Sioux County rancher Richard Edwards, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials said.

Eleven whitetail deer and seven elk from captive herds on Edwards' ranch have tested positive for CWD. To determine if CWD is in the wild population, commission officials are killing deer within a mile of a 10-foot fence that confines an estimated 200 whitetails on Edwards' ranch.

Five two-person teams are killing wild deer, while three other commission officials are killing confined whitetail inside the fence. Five of the wild deer killed so far are mule deer and the remainder are whitetails, Bruce Morrison, assistant chief of the commission's wildlife division, said late Friday afternoon.

The confined deer have begun to be killed even though the commission has not yet reached a financial agreement with Edwards.

Commission officials told Edwards they would lease 1,700 acres at $ 5 an acre each year for up to five years, then would pay him an additional $ 15,000 a year for a personal services contract if he would help in such areas as killing deer and weed control. The commission also wants to turn the site into a research area to see if CWD remains in the environment.

Edwards has countered with an offer of a personal services contract of $ 50,000 a year, said Kirk Nelson, assistant director in charge of wildlife.

"We haven't made any final determination," Nelson said. "We'll probably talk it over with our commissioners when they meet Tuesday."

Edwards could not be reached for comment.

Brain stems are collected from each animal - wild and confined - and are sent to labs in Wyoming and Colorado to be tested for CWD. Each test costs $ 18, which is being paid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Commission and state agriculture department officials also are conducting about 50 other tests on each animal.

"By the time we finish cutting into that animal and taking samples, it is not fit for human consumption," Morrison said. "So we dispose of it."

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