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Chronic Wasting Disease Confirmed

March 15, 2002

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, Colo. (AP) _ Park officials are requesting a federal grant to test for chronic wasting disease after biologists confirmed that elk and deer suffer from the fatal disease.

The $100,000 research grant would be used to conduct a testing program in Rocky Mountain National Park, where the stricken animals were found. Researchers would seek to determine if the illness is spreading.

Park biologist Mary Kay Watry said the park has had three elk test positive for disease, the first in 1981. She said officials believe CWD prevalence is less than 1 percent at the park.

There are approximately 3,000 elk in three herds both within park boundaries and in the bordering town of Estes Park. There are some 500 mule deer in the park.

More than 3 million visitors come through Rocky Mountain National Park each year, many of them coming in the fall to watch the elk.

Within the past 10 years, chronic wasting disease has infected elk ranches, along with wild deer and elk, in parts of the Great Plains and Rockies.

The fatal illness is related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. It is not known to spread from deer and elk to cattle or people, but scientists say that cannot be ruled out.

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