No evidence of Chronic Wasting Disease was found in 15 elk killed on a Class Park in southwestern New Mexico. The Department of Game and Fish killed the animals for testing because three bull elk there were imported from a facility in Colorado which has tested positive for CWD.
"We're very happy we found no CWD," said Kerry Mower, an animal health expert for the Department of Game and Fish. "This means that New Mexico is still CWD free."
The state of Colorado has tracked the spread of CWD since the late 1960s. It's also found in Wyoming and Nebraska, as well as the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Several elk farms in Colorado are now under quarantine and more than 1,000 animals will be destroyed due to positive tests for CWD.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies include a family of diseases caused by proteinaceous infectious particles or prions. The prions attack the brains of their hosts, causing the animals to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior and lose bodily functions. These diseases are always fatal and include bovine spongiform encephalopathy in cattle, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
Department of Game and Fish employees are trying to increase their sampling of wild deer this fall, especially in northern New Mexico. Hunters have been notified by letter of the locations of sampling stations and are being asked to take the head of animals they kill to those stations within 48 hours of the animals' time of death.
"We have found no evidence of CWD in New Mexico to date," Mower said. "Killing the Pearson Ranch elk and sampling the hunters" deer are just precautions. We're just trying to make sure Chronic Wasting Disease does not get a foothold in New Mexico. Once it's here we'll never be rid of it."