March 25, 2004
Tom Farrell, 605-745-1130
A twenty-month old elk recently observed exhibiting clinical signs of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has tested positive for the fatal disease. Wind Cave National Park employees found the elk on March 4. It was immediately euthanized and the body taken to the Colorado State University Diagnostic Lab in Fort Collins for testing. Results available on March 24 confirmed the diagnoses.
Park resource management specialist Dan Roddy said, “Our program of targeted surveillance, where we go out looking for animals exhibiting signs of CWD, is helping us minimize the spread of this disease while increasing our knowledge of it. Every suspect animal is being video taped in the field. We then use this footage to correlate the biopsy results with the observed behavior. This allows us to learn more about the clinical signs of this disease and teaches us which suspect animals are sick from CWD and which are sick from other causes.”
Since 1998, seventy deer and ten elk in Wind Cave National Park have been tested for CWD. Of those totals, five deer and three elk have tested positive for this disease, which is similar to mad cow disease, and thought to be caused by a “prion” or abnormal protein particle. How the disease is transmitted is unknown, although at this time there is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans.