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From: TSS ()
Subject: Wildlife Officers “Seize” Elk From Local Ranch
Date: April 6, 2006 at 6:06 pm PST

Wildlife Officers “Seize” Elk From Local Ranch

By Jerry Sena
The state’s determined battle to keep a devastating disease out of its wild deer and elk herds has brought it into conflict with a Watauga County elk rancher.

Wildlife enforcement officers served a search warrant March 28 on Joey Perdue, owner of Beaverhorn Elk Ranch in the Bethel community.

The search warrant, signed by Superior Court judge James Baker, allowed wildlife management officials to “seize” five elk, the last remnants of Perdue’s herd, after a citation accused her of failing to comply with state regulations.

By “seize,” though, the warrant was really empowering officials to kill the elk and dispose of their carcasses in a pit at the Wilkes Wildlife Depot.

Perdue says wildlife officials never told her the violations would end in the death of her elk, which included a 23-year-old bull and three pregnant cows.

What’s worse, she said, is the animals, which officials say were killed as part of the state’s effort to keep a mysterious brain ailment known as Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from infecting wild herds, were rendered inedible when two veterinarians tranquilized them before euthanizing them with a bolt gun shot to the brain.

“This waste amounted to approximately 5,000 pounds of the most healthy meat in the world,” an infuriated Perdue wrote in a March 31 letter to the Democrat.

Perdue had been involved in a running dispute with state Wildlife Management officials who say they’d been after the 71-year-old rancher since 2004 to bring her operation into compliance with state law.

According to Brad Gunn, Assistant Chief of the Wildlife Management Division of the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission, “The agency has gone to great lengths to try to accommodate her and been unsuccessful. In my opinion she was given ample warning and opportunity to work something out.”

Perdue acknowledged she’d failed to comply with strict rules adopted in 2002 when CWD (transmissible spongiform encephalopathy) – an affliction biologists have compared to Mad Cow Disease in bovine herds – appeared to leap the Mississippi River into eastern regions it had never infected before.

Gunn said the emergency rules were enacted in 2002 following discovery of “pretty reliable information” that deer infected with chronic wasting disease had been imported from Wisconsin to NC’s captive herds.

No sign of the disease has ever been documented in the state, though, Wildlife officials have maintained an aggressive program to see that it stays that way, Gunn said.

The rules have undergone “challenges and tweaks along the way,” though, he explained. And the Legislature has passed laws allowing certain animals to be grandfathered in. Perdue’s herd was among those given special consideration, Gunn said, when it was excepted from new rules requiring fences be raised from eight to 10 feet in height.

But Kelly Douglas, who leads the state’s captive herd program, said Perdue had failed to keep proper records. When officials showed up last month to kill her elk, one animal, a 10-month-old calf, had never been accounted for.

Douglas said Perdue’s animals had not been tagged according to the 2002 rules, either. And a shed inside the animals’ enclosure was required by law to be walled on three sides.

Perdue said state officials are “…ignorant. They know absolutely nothing about elk.” Enclosing the animals on three sides goes against their instinct for open spaces, she insisted.

“If it’s snowing outside, the elk want to be right out there laying down in the snow. They don’t want to be inside a building,” she said.

Perdue said she’d refused to tag her elk because doing so would have required she tranquilize the massive animals, an action she deemed too risky, especially for the 23-year-old bull she and her late husband had owned since the ranch’s 1983 founding.

Douglas said Perdue should have known that seizing the animals was the equivalent of a death sentence.

Douglas insisted all participants in their captive elk and deer programs are informed repeatedly of the necessity of killing the animals to test for CWD. They’re also informed that all animals seized by Wildlife are required to be tested for the disease.

Gunn said he would be “astounded” if enforcement officials had failed to inform Perdue of the consequences of non-compliance. “We’ve had a number of individuals who decided not to comply – whether for financial or other reasons –they voluntarily surrendered their animals and there was no problem.”

No Wildlife officials could say that Perdue had been explicitly warned her elk would be killed if she failed to bring her ranch into compliance.

Capt. Bill Townsend, supervisor for District 7, which includes Watauga County and Beaverhorn Elk Ranch within its borders, said his office tries not to use blunt language because often the owners have come to see their animals as pets.

“Of course we’re dealing with people who are very emotional,” he said. “I’m not trying to conceal what’s going to happen. I wouldn’t have driven up there into her driveway and told her, ‘Mrs. Perdue, we’re going to shoot a bolt through the head of your deer.’”

WITH an infection rate like CWD, one cannot take to many precautions;


Subject: Wasting disease kills 25% of elk IN PENS CONTAMINATED WITH CWD 11 OF 43 IN FOUR YEARS
Date: February 16, 2006 at 10:20 am PST




February 17, 2006


5. Predicted population effects on free-ranging elk based on captive elk chronically exposed to the CWD prion.
Forty-three female elk calves were trapped at the National Elk Refuge and transported to Sybille in February 2002. Elk were housed in pens, assumed to be environmentally contaminated with the CWD prion. Elk will be held throughout their lifetimes. Elk dying will be examined and cause of death determined. From these data, it will should be possible to model free-ranging elk mortality and population dynamics under extreme circumstances of CWD prion exposure and transmission. As of December 2005 (46 months post capture), 11 of 43 elk have died due to CWD. This compares to 100% mortality in less than 25 months in elk orally inoculated with different dosages of the CWD prion.





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