New Mexico looking into ‘grisly’ elk find
Biologists from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish made what’s being called “a grisly discovery” Aug. 27 when more than 100 elk were found dead in northeastern New Mexico.
According to the agency, biologists found the dead elk in a one-half- to three-quarter-mile area within the same 24-hour period.
“At this time we’re looking into all possible causes, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD),” said Kerry Mower, a wildlife disease specialist with the DGF. “What we do know from aerial surveys is that the die-off appears to be confined to a relatively small area, and that the elk were not shot by poachers.”
EHD is a sometimes fatal virus known to affect deer (most-often white-tailed deer), elk, pronghorn antelope and rarely cattle. It does not affect humans.
According to New Mexico officials, EHD does not affect humans, and it is not contagious or spread from contact with an infected animal.
It is spread by biting insects, including midges, often called no-see-ums, that proliferate during dry periods of late summer and early fall.
Animals infected with the illness can show symptoms as early as seven days after exposure, a Department of Game and Fish spokesperson said.
Eight to 36 hours after the onset of observable signs, the animals go into shock and die.
Other animals such as sheep and cattle can contract the disease, although it is rarely fatal for domesticated animals.
More than 30 states have reported cases of EHD, and it and chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is contagious, are considered two of the major threats to wild deer nationwide.
“With EHD, an elk could get a fever,” Department of Game and Fish spokesperson Rachel Shockley said in an interview with a local television station. “It’s usually a pretty fast illness.”
The die-off is an inauspicious start to New Mexico’s elk bow-hunting season, which begins today.
Hunters in Game Management Unit 46 north of Las Vegas are advised to be on the lookout for animals that are behaving strangely or appear sick.
Although meat from animals stricken with EHD is still safe to eat, hunters are advised to be careful when field-dressing game and to always wear rubber gloves.