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USDA: No immigrant elk

USDA: No immigrant elk
By Associated Press
February 13, 2007
MEMPHIS ⬠The U.S. Department of Agriculture has derailed a state plan to import 160 live elk from Canada, citing concerns about the animals spreading diseases.
The agency sent a letter recently to the Gov. Phil Bredesenâ¬"s office saying it could not allow the elk to be brought into the country, said USDA spokeswoman Andrea McNally.

"The Canadian Food Inspection Agency was not able to certify that this herd is free of tuberculosis, which is one of our standard requirements," she said.
McNally said the USDA also requires thorough disease-testing records for each animal brought into the country, beginning at that animalâ¬"s birth. Canadian officials could not provide those records.
"Thereâ¬"s certainly a chance that Tennessee could look elsewhere and try to get some animals from another herd," McNally said. "But we have some pretty standard requirements regarding lifetime records and disease testing, and the Elk Island herd doesnâ¬"t meet those requirements."
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency had hoped to bring the animals in by ground transportation as early as this month from Elk Island National Park in Alberta.
But USDA officials quashed the plan late last week.
The last wild elk recorded in Tennessee was killed in Obion County in northwestern Tennessee in 1865. The subspecies of elk that once roamed the state is now extinct, forced out by habitat loss and over-hunting as elsewhere in the eastern United States.
Excluding elk in the Land Between the Lakes preserve on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, the large, antlered animals made their return to Tennessee in late 2000. Fifty animals were brought from Elk Island National Park to the Royal Blue Wildlife Management Area, about 40 miles north of Knoxville.
A total of 167 elk eventually were reintroduced to Tennessee. They have fanned out over the Royal Blue and Sundquist wildlife areas in Campbell and Scott counties northwest of Knoxville.
Tennessee conservation officials were hoping to have more than 1,400 free-roaming elk in the state by 2016, and a limited elk hunting season has been discussed for 2008.
Now that program is in jeopardy.
"This is definitely a major setback," said Ron Fox, assistant director of TWRA. "Weâ¬"re looking into the possibility of an appeals process, but I donâ¬"t know if there is one available in a matter like this."
Fox seemed perplexed by the USDAâ¬"s refusal, considering they have allowed elk importation from Elk Island in the past.
"Nothing has changed with this herd at Elk Island," Fox said. "I just think there has been a change in the mindset of the people who make these decisions."
More details as they develop online and in Wednesdayâ¬"s News Sentinel.

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