Oklahoma Watches and Warnings

State veterinarian shocked 2-year-old elk dies from chronic wasting disease

OKLAHOMA CITY - A deadly disease that impacts animals is back in Oklahoma.

For the first time in more than 20 years, chronic wasting disease has been found in an elk in Oklahoma.

CWD is a neurological disease that affects the brains of animals.

The Department of Agriculture said, while there’s no way to cure it, they can do their best to stop it from spreading.

“Very shocked,” said Dr. Rod Hall, the state veterinarian. “This is the place that I would of least likely expected it.”

The 2-year-old elk’s death stunned many Oklahomans. Hall said it tested positive for chronic waste disease.

“This particular animal got excited, ran, and hit a fence, and was injured and died, so it’s a part of that program and he had to be sampled for CWD,” he said.

The commercial breeding facility in Lincoln County followed the certified herd plan.

Hall said, in the past, they take good care of their deer and elk.

“This herd is a well-managed herd,” he said. “They don’t import a lot of deer. They do everything the right way. There’s just no red flags or risk factors they participate in that we’re aware of.”

Hall said it’s hard to tell where the elk picked up the disease and you can usually see it’s symptoms.

“It’s spread by many body materials like feces and urine,” he said. “It’s very thin, it’s kind of got it’s head down, might be drooling a little bit.”

It’s also dangerous to wild deer and elk.

The last case in Oklahoma was in 1998.

The Oklahoma Wildlife Department is now surveying the surrounding areas and sampling the animals to make sure it doesn’t spread.

“There’s no vaccine,” Hall said. “There’s no treatment for it. Once it gets in the environment, it lives for many, many years.”

But, humans shouldn’t be worried.

“There’s never been any proof at all that this disease can affect humans,” Hall said.

In the meantime, Hall has issued a 30-day stop to transporting the deer and elk to make sure the disease doesn’t spread to other states.

“It just hurts the overall ability of the state of Oklahoma to be a good place to go hunt deer,” he said.

Although it’s not deer season right now, Hall advises hunters who harvest a deer and believe it has CWD not to eat the meat and to call the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

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