FGA Calls for Action Against Elk Rancher

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The Alberta Fish and Game Association is calling on the province to get on with it and to take legal action against a game-farm rancher who may have knowingly released a herd of 20 elk into the wild.

"When we see someone releasing animals that could potentially create a spread of chronic wasting disease, we are extremely concerned," said Ray Makowecki, president of the 15,000-member association.

"We think there should be quick and swift action taken."

In May, personnel from Alberta Agriculture and Alberta Sustainable Resources had to round up and slaughter about 20 game-farmed elk after they were found roaming free near Marwayne, 246 km east of Edmonton.

The animals, which tested free of the chronic wasting disease, had their ear tags removed when they were found, said Alberta Agriculture spokesman Doug Milligan.

Milligan said the destroyed game-farmed elk were docile and easily identifiable by wildlife officials.

"We're pretty certain who owned them (but) there's no confirmation they were released on purpose.

"There's evidence pointing towards the particular producer, but it's still being reviewed as to whether that is sufficient to lay charges - whether there's strong enough cause to lay charges.

"A decision as to which way to proceed has to be made."

Makowecki said his group wants answers from the province on why no charges have been laid four months after the incident.

"We're concerned if a decision has already been made on not to proceed. That would be our main concern - if a decision has been made to not proceed, we'd certainly like to know about that and we'd like to ask some questions."

Milligan said since the animals were captured and sent for testing, there is no emergency to lay charges.

The penalty for releasing game-farmed elk into the wild is up to $10,000 in fines and/or six months imprisonment.

"The discussions and decisions are jointly done with Agriculture and Fish and Wildlife and that is part of the discussion. If there are charges, under whose legislation would they be laid?" Milligan said.

"There's no sort of deadline as to when it has to happen."

A farmed elk tested positive for CWD, which belongs to a group of related diseases that includes bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle and Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease in people, more than a year ago.