South Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) has confirmed with officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) that at least two elk, including one adult bull and one cow, have escaped from a captive cervid facility (deer and elk farms) in Greene County, Pa. Greene County shares a common border with Marshall, Wetzel and Monongalia counties in West Virginia. The elk escaped from a captive cervid facility located approximately three miles from the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border.
The PDA regulates captive cervid facilities in Pennsylvania. A representative of the agency was unaware if the recent escaped elk were tagged. The WVDNR regulates captive cervid facilities in West Virginia. In West Virginia, all captive cervids in breeding facilities must be ear-tagged, and there are currently no reported elk escapes from any facility in West Virginia.
A bull elk has been seen recently in Wetzel County, W.Va., according to WVDNR officials. There have been no reports of cow elk sightings in either Wetzel County, W.Va., or Greene County, Pa. No free-ranging wild elk live within 150 miles of Wetzel County. The elk sighted in Wetzel County is likely the escaped animal from the captive facility in Pennsylvania.
Contact between escaped captive deer or elk and free-ranging white-tailed deer increases the risk of disease transmission from the captive animals to the native herd, according WVDNR biologists. The movement and/or escape of captive deer and elk increases this risk of contact and are one of the many possible modes of transmission for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from captive cervids to free-ranging white-tailed deer.
The State of Missouri recently documented CWD in a captive cervid facility. Texas Parks and Wildlife had to euthanize a large captive deer herd after illegal importation of white-tailed deer from a captive facility in Arkansas.
“Monitoring and protecting West Virginia’s deer herd from CWD and other diseases is crucial to West Virginia’s economy and its natural resources,” said WVDNR Director Frank Jezioro. “Deer hunting provides tremendous recreational opportunities for hunters and wildlife viewers, has a large economic impact on its rural communities, and brings in many out-of-state hunters each season to West Virginia.”
WVDNR advises residents in Marshall, Wetzel and Monongalia counties to contact the Farmington District Office at 304-825-6787 if they see an elk in these counties. Hunters are reminded that it is illegal to harvest any free-ranging elk in West Virginia.