South Dakota park addresses chronic wasting disease in elk
HOT SPRINGS (AP) — Officials at South Dakota's Wind Cave National Park are addressing chronic wasting disease in elk through two initiatives.
The fatal neurological disease continues to threaten the overall health of the park's elk population.
A U.S. Geological Survey scientist has been conducting research in the park by fitting captured elk with GPS radio collars, the Rapid City Journal reported. The study, which is in its second year, aims to determine the possibility of decreasing the disease's prevalence by reducing the herd's density.
"These collars and the information they provide will allow us to study the elk that are living inside the park and learn more about their movements and habits," said Park Superintendent Vidal Davila.
The park's other program focuses on population control with the help of the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department. The culling program tested 262 elk for the disease last year and found a prevalence rate of nearly 14 percent.
Because the agencies believe that limiting herd size could decrease these rates, they will conduct another herd reduction in 2018.
Every animal taken during the culling effort will be tested for the disease. The meat that doesn't test positive for the disease will be donated to Feeding South Dakota to be distributed to families in need.
The park is looking for eight volunteers who are skilled marksmen and physically fit to handle the operation, which will begin in February. The park will begin accepting applications online in January.