The office of the Utah State Veterinarian confirms that one domestic bull elk has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).  The discovery came following routine testing of a male elk that was harvested by a hunter at the Broadmouth Canyon Ranch in Weber County.

Elk Image/Leupold Jim, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Image/Leupold Jim, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The infected animal was among 11 elk transported in early October, 2014 to the hunting ranch from the Howe’s Elk Ranch in San Juan County.  All but two of the remaining 10 animals tested negative.  Tests on the remaining two are currently being conducted with results expected shortly.

Both elk ranches are under quarantine, which prohibits any elk from being moved from either facility. State Veterinarians are working with the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Logan, Utah and the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa  to confirm the origin of the infected animal.

As a means to prevent the spread of CWD, the State Veterinarian’s Office is recommending the remaining elk at the San Juan County ranch be euthanized and tested.

This is the first confirmed case of CWD in domestic elk in Utah since the creation of the Domestic Elk Act in 1997.  CWD has been present in wild deer in Utah since 2002 and wild elk since 2009.

Chronic Wasting Disease is a rare disease affecting the brains of mule deer, black-tailed deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose.  The disease belongs to a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs).. There is no known cure for TSEs, and they are always fatal in susceptible host species. There is no scientific evidence that CWD can spread to humans. The Center of Disease Control has thoroughly investigated any connection between CWD and the human forms of TSEs and stated, “the risk of infection with the CWD agent among hunters is extremely small, if it exists at all,” and “it is extremely unlikely that CWD would be a food borne hazard.