Deer, elk disease worries state veterinarian

November 12, 2001 Associated Press by Joe Kafka
Few states have regulations to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease in elk and deer, endangering both wild and domestic herds, South Dakota's state veterinarian says.

A recent outbreak of the fatal animal disease in Colorado points to the need for a nationwide regulatory program, said Dr. Sam Holland, who also is executive secretary of the state Animal Industry Board. Colorado elk exposed to the disease were shipped to 15 states, including South Dakota, he said. Holland said six elk that had to be destroyed in South Dakota were found free of the disease. The brains were examined to determine if they were infected; the disease cannot be diagnosed in live animals.

Animals with chronic wasting disease gradually lose weight, become unsteady and die.

Chronic wasting disease is endemic to wild deer and elk in parts of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

South Dakota was the first state to confirm the existence of the disease in farm-raised elk, Holland said. After the disease was found in November 1997, the Animal Industry Board approved rules to prevent it from spreading among elk raised in captivity.

In 1998, South Dakota legislators approved a measure allowing restrictions on imports of elk, deer, caribou, moose and reindeer into the state and limiting the movement of those animals from one captive herd to another within the state.

It's time for all states to adopt similar regulations, Holland said. "We really need a strong, uniform program nationwide."

Chronic wasting disease was first identified in 1967 in wild deer. In the last decade, it has infected elk ranches in South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado and Saskatchewan.

Captive elk and deer herds in South Dakota were declared free of chronic wasting disease earlier this year. Holland credits the mandatory monitoring and testing program for the state's success.

The program, approved by the 1998 Legislature, requires testing of captive elk that have died and those shot by hunters. Strict import regulations also were imposed.

"We are cautious on what we allow to be brought into the state," Holland said. "We absolutely don't want to live with that disease or have it in our state."

The state Game, Fish and Parks Department and the Animal Industry Board studied free-ranging deer and elk herds and found no evidence of chronic wasting disease in the wild, Holland said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a $2.6 million program last month that helps find infected animals and pays farmers and ranchers for captive elk and deer that must be killed to determine if they have the disease.

Elk ranchers sell their animals for breeding, meat and velvety spring antlers that can fetch up to $70 a pound as a nutritional supplement.

Home | News | Organics | GE Food | Health | Environment | Food Safety | Fair Trade | Peace | Farm Issues | Politics
Español | Campaigns | Buying Guide | Press | Search | Donate | About Us | Contact Us

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.