Elk Escape From Captive Cervid Facility in Pennsylvania Near West Virginia Border

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The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) has confirmed with officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) that at least two elk, including one adult bull and one cow, have escaped from a captive cervid facility (deer and elk farms) in Greene County, Pa.  Greene County shares a common border with Marshall, Wetzel and Monongalia counties in West Virginia. The elk escaped from a captive cervid facility located approximately three miles from the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border.

The PDA regulates captive cervid facilities in Pennsylvania.  A representative of the agency was unaware if the recent escaped elk were tagged. The WVDNR regulates captive cervid facilities in West Virginia.  In West Virginia, all captive cervids in breeding facilities must be ear-tagged, and there are currently no reported elk escapes from any facility in West Virginia.

A bull elk has been seen recently in Wetzel County, W.Va., according to WVDNR officials. There have been no reports of cow elk sightings in either Wetzel County, W.Va., or Greene County, Pa.  No free-ranging wild elk live within 150 miles of Wetzel County. The elk sighted in Wetzel County is likely the escaped animal from the captive facility in Pennsylvania.

Contact between escaped captive deer or elk and free-ranging white-tailed deer increases the risk of disease transmission from the captive animals to the native herd, according WVDNR biologists. The movement and/or escape of captive deer and elk increases this risk of contact and are one of the many possible modes of transmission for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from captive cervids to free-ranging white-tailed deer. 

The State of Missouri recently documented CWD in a captive cervid facility. Texas Parks and Wildlife had to euthanize a large captive deer herd after illegal importation of white-tailed deer from a captive facility in Arkansas.

“Monitoring and protecting West Virginia’s deer herd from CWD and other diseases is crucial to West Virginia’s economy and its natural resources,” said WVDNR Director Frank Jezioro.  “Deer hunting provides tremendous recreational opportunities for hunters and wildlife viewers, has a large economic impact on its rural communities, and brings in many out-of-state hunters each season to West Virginia.”

WVDNR advises residents in Marshall, Wetzel and Monongalia counties to contact the Farmington District Office at 304-825-6787 if they see an elk in these counties. Hunters are reminded that it is illegal to harvest any free-ranging elk in West Virginia.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

Well, like I said in my

Well, like I said in my response in the main forums to this article, this isn't a good thing, especially given the existing elk herd in Pennsylvania.  That, I believe, is the longest standing elk herd east of the Mississippi, having been there over 100 years.  I remember hearing stories about them 25-30 years ago from my relatives in Pennsylvania.  I would hate to see them get decimated by an outbreak of CWD.

That being said, considering there are only 3 animals that escaped, according to what they said, and they are not even sure if they have been infected, the chance of an outbreak starting is very, very remote.  They would need to first find the other wild elk, then be able to intersperse with them, and finally, have some sort of close contact, like eating from the same bait pile or something.  Thankfully there is not that dense a population out there, so that alone will help.

Hopefully the wildlife officials will be able to track these escapees down.

hunter25's picture

Although I know the dangers

Although I know the dangers of Cwd I don'r really think there is a lot to worry about here. Just because they were captive does not make it more likely that they have it. Most of these captive herds are watched very closely because of this. I know it's possible but in my opinion unlikely. There  are thousands and thousands of captive animals living without the disease. I like the idea of a double fence to keep this type of situation from happening in the future so there would never be this worry in the first place.

Retired2hunt's picture

  Not good PDA!  It depends


Not good PDA!  It depends on the PDA official contacted but I have got to believe that there is a PDA official that does know whether these animals were tagged or not.  And if not, then I think PDA needs to change their stance on tagging animals in captive cervid facilities.

Okay - I have to ask - now what?  Do the PDA and/or the WVDNR start a "hunt" and try to capture these escaped elk?  There is no way of knowing if these escaped animals are carrying CWD unless they are captured and tested.  Or is the entire PA cervid facility tested for CWD and if none found to contain the disease then allow these couple of elk to become part of the WVA free range elk herd?

I am not knowledgeable on how these cervid facilities are fenced off but I would think that a single fence system is not acceptable and that a double fence system (just like some prisons) is the answer so if or when an animal is able to escape they are still secure within a second fence system outside of the first fence system.

I am interested in following this article to see what comes of these escaped elk or the actions taken by the state DNR's.