This letter is in response to the killing of a small herd of elk living in Allamakee County, Iowa by the Iowa Division of Natural Resource (DNR).
Despite a glaring lack of evidence that these elk are infected with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Iowa DNR officials state that they must kill the elk in order to prevent this disease from spreading. However, no disease is controlled by slaughtering animals who aren't infected with it.
Elk do not need to be killed in order to be tested for CWD. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Colorado State University announced a non-lethal test for CWD in elk nearly three years ago.
In a press release dated June 02, 2008, wildlife research biologist Dr. Kurt VerCauteren with the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is quoted as saying, "The use of this new live test in the initial screening, surveillance and monitoring of CWD will greatly aid the management and control of the disease in the wild, as well as in captive settings." We question the value of using federal resources to develop such testing methods, if agencies fail to use them.
In a February 10, 2011 interview with KWWL news, Iowa DNR spokesperson Joe Wilkinson states that "[CWD] does not show up for almost a year or two." Yet, according to residents in the Yellow River area, the elk have already been sighted for two years. An email from a Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation member indicates that the elk have been there for a decade or more. If CWD infection existed among these elk, it would likely be apparent by now, according to Wilkinson's statement.
As further justification for this killing, the DNR states that the elk are believed to be escaped from captivity, where they would have been treated as livestock. Despite sending out a notice to farmers and game preserves, no one has claimed them.
In a February 17 2011 press release, DNR Chief of Wildlife Dale Garner states that the agency "simply does not know" where the elk come from, adding that it is extremely unlikely that they are wild elk. However, since elk are known to migrate distances of up to 100 miles, and as no one rearing captive elk has claimed them, it is possible that they are wild.
It appears that the DNR is killing these elk either because they are unclaimed livestock or because they are wild. Certainly they are one of the two, but without evidence of infection with CWD, there is no disease prevention value in destroying these animals. Since 2007, no elk tested by the Iowa DNR has been found to have CWD.
Finally, the Iowa DNR states a fear of an increased incidence of CWD. Wyoming has thriving cattle and hunting industries "“ in fact politicians have recently co-drafted a resolution to delist the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species Act, citing concerns that wolf predation on elk will impact revenues. Apparently CWD in Wyoming is not a big enough concern to justify the eradication of every elk that wanders into its borders.
On behalf of Friends of Animals and its 200,000 members, I urge you to stop this elk slaughter, and to use live testing methods to determine the CWD status of elk, if testing is necessary.
Friends of Animals encourages the public to speak out on behalf of elk in Iowa.
Please contact Dale Garner of the Iowa Division of Natural Resources and tell him to stop the slaughter of elk, using points in this letter, if desired.
Dale Garner, Wildlife Bureau Chief
502 EAST 9TH ST
DES MOINES, IA, 50319
Phone: (515) 281-6156
If you are able, please attend the public meeting and voice your concerns.
When: 1 March 2011, 7-9 pm
Where: Waukon Banquet Center, 612 Rossville Road, Waukon, Iowa