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    Paralyzing disease devastates elk, baffles scientists

    By Linda Moulton Howe

    March 9, 2004 Cheyenne, Wyoming - On February 8, 2004, Wyoming coyote hunters contacted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in Rawlins to report their finding two live elk down on their chests, unable to rise. The location was about 15 miles southwest of Rawlins on land actually owned and managed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. A Rawlins field biologist went to investigate, found the two elk and subsequently, other field investigators found another 80 live, paralyzed elk. The number of debilitated animals has now risen to almost 300 today. Nine more, all alive, were found the weekend of March 6-7, 2004. Sadly, all have been euthanized.

    This week I talked about the baffling phenomenon with Tom Reed, Publications Supervisor, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

    Interview:

    Tom Reed, Publications Supervisor, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Cheyenne, Wyoming: "It's a very odd malady. These wild elk are all pretty alert. They are very cognizant of what is going on around them. They are very afraid when our people approach them, but they can't get away. They can't rise. This is a very harsh environment. It's a sagebrush zone that is basically high desert with sub-zero wind-chill factors at this time of year. Lots of snow and wind and very remote area and so we've been euthanizing these animals. Probably the majority of them at least 2/3's of them have been euthanized by our field personnel because of the harsh conditions. This thing, whatever it is, is not really killing the animals, but is debilitating them so badly that if we don't take care of them right away in terms of euthanizing them, they die a pretty horrible death. They eat everything around them that they can reach right down to the dirt and then they die of starvation or dehydration.

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