Manitoba Conservation officials are using plane and helicopter surveillance over part of western Manitoba this week to find and remove up to nine escaped farm elk from Saskatchewan that could threaten to spread chronic wasting disease (CWD) to Manitoba’s wild elk, Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh announced today.
“Our diligence in monitoring and responding to the threat of chronic wasting disease has prevented it from spreading to Manitoba so far,” Mackintosh said. “We’ve seen the devastating effect the disease has had on wildlife in neighbouring jurisdictions and this latest action is essential to keep our elk healthy.”
CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer and elk. In the early 1980s, it was detected in free-ranging elk in northeast Colorado and southeast Wyoming. It has since been found in farmed-elk herds in Saskatchewan, Alberta, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and other jurisdictions. Many elk farms have had to destroy entire herds because of CWD.
When Manitoba Conservation staff was first notified of the escaped elk, they began ground efforts to locate the animals, which have identifiable ear tags and have been seen in the area of Thunder Hill, west of Swan River, and in the Birtle–St-Lazare area. They are now escalating the search by using aerial surveillance. Once the elk from Saskatchewan are located within or near the Manitoba border, they will be culled by Manitoba Conservation staff and tested for the disease.
While CWD has become a serious problem in Saskatchewan and Alberta, to date no confirmed cases have been found in Manitoba, Mackintosh said, adding if CWD ever became established in Manitoba’s elk population, the impacts would be extremely serious. There is currently no evidence to show that CWD can affect humans, however the World Health Organization recommends against consuming all products from infected animals.
Information on containing the spread of CWD in Manitoba is available at: www.gov.mb.ca/conservation/wildlife .
Anyone who believes they have spotted the farmed elk should contact their local Manitoba Conservation office or call 1-800-782-0076 (toll-free).