Sick elk lethally removed from the Hualapais

KINGMAN - The Arizona Game and Fish Department dispatched a sick elk in the Pine Lake community in the Hualapai Mountains recently.

And again, Zen Mocarski, public information officer with the Game and Fish Kingman office, is warning the public about the dangers of feeding wildlife.

"Despite all the warnings and efforts to inform the public, feeding issues in the Hualapais and throughout the county continues to create problems," Mocarski said. "This, unfortunately, is one of the potential consequences that can occur as a result of feeding: transmission of disease."

Game and Fish received several calls regarding a sick elk at the Hualapai Mountain Resort. Upon arrival, 16 elk were counted, and one was drooling and emaciated. Personnel drugged the elk and euthanized it away from the scene.

Biologists suspect the elk had Elaeophorosis, a parasitic disease caused by a roundworm which resides in the carotid arteries. Larvae are transmitted from one infected individual to another by horseflies. In elk, the disease can cause muzzle and ear infection, malformed antlers, blindness, and is often fatal.

The department is concerned because Elaeophorosis had never before been detected in the Hualapai range.

Although not yet detected in Arizona, Game and Fish is also concerned about Chronic Wasting Disease. Samples were taken for testing and results are expected soon. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, not suspected in this particular case, has been confirmed in deer in the range, and is a future concern.

"In any of these scenarios, a high concentration of animals in a small area increases the likelihood of the elk being affected," Mocarski said. "Game and Fish has been issuing warnings about this possibility for years. Unfortunately, while some have listened, others have not."

Mocarski said the public can still help by ending the practice of feeding wildlife, removing free-standing water and securing garbage. He added that if additional elk appear sick, Game and Fish should be contacted.

"There is a possibility there are more sick elk in the area," Mocarski said. "We need to know about this before any potential transmission to the rest of the herd occurs. Problems like this can escalate quickly."

Another concern for Game and Fish is the potential attraction of predators to sick animals. Mocarski said predatory animals are opportunistic and weakened animals provide an easy target.

"These animals have been around a long time," Mocarski said. "They don't need help from the public. These elk have become habituated to humans and it's time to break that tie."

Mocarski added the only way to help is to plant native vegetation, which allows for wildlife to maintain a healthy diet.