Farmed elk not responsible for spread of disease

As an elk farmer here in Alberta, I am writing to dispel misleading information about our industry, specifically inferences that farmed elk are responsible for the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Canada.

As an elk farmer here in Alberta, I am writing to dispel misleading information about our industry, specifically inferences that farmed elk are responsible for the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Canada.

It’s important that the public differentiate between wild elk and deer that roam the country, and animals that are raised on domestic production farms, also known as game farms.

Last year, the government promoted killing (or culling of herds) of wild deer near the Saskatchewan border in an attempt to reduce the spread of and exposure to CWD among wild deer and elk. That activity and ongoing hunter surveillance since 2005 has found only 61 cases of CWD out of over 25,500 tested. All of these cases were in wild deer populations, not in animals raised on farms or ranches.

Elk farmers in Alberta go to great lengths to keep their herds protected from disease.

In fact, domestic elk have been selectively bred for more than 25 years, and many Alberta elk ranchers have bred more than five generations of animals on their ranch without any incidence of CWD.

Since 2002, when one elk tested positive for CWD, more than 43,000 farmed elk have been tested by the government of Alberta through its mandatory CWD testing program, and all have proven to be CWD free. In addition, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regularly inspects elk herds and tests for illnesses such as tuberculosis and brucellosis.

We take pride in the elk we raise and are committed to do the right thing for the future of Alberta.

Anyone who wants to better understand my family’s level of commitment is welcome to visit our elk ranch.

We hope that all Albertans will better understand how domestic elk are raised and share in our pride.

Frank Kuhnen, Sr.

Red Deer