Chronic wasting disease may not damage herd

Laramie, Wyo. – Game officials are more confident that a deadly disease might not have long-term impacts on elk herds.

Since 2002, researchers have been studying a group of 40 elk infected with chronic wasting disease. The department's Eric Keszler says CWD is always fatal. But the study found that infected animals can live for five years or more before they die. And that gives them plenty of time to breed and keep herd populations strong.

"It's showing us that if CWD shows up in a worse-case scenario like one of our feed grounds where the animals are concentrated, we're not looking at a population crash or devastating effect on that population."

Winter feed grounds in Wyoming are often criticized because some fear they will spread disease and wipe out populations. Keszler says the study isn't complete. Researchers are waiting for the last of the 40 elk to die before drawing final conclusions.