- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

The great American elk simply can't get any respect. In Virginia, for example, game department officials haven't minced words about an ambitious elk introduction program in Kentucky, and they've told their mountain cousins to be sure to keep the elk herds in their state. If they cross over into the Old Dominion during deer hunting seasons, the majestic animals run the risk of being shot because they will be considered deer, nothing else. Some deer, eh?
And why are Virginia's wildlife biologists so worried about errant elk showing up? They fear the huge animals might introduce various diseases into herds of whitetailed deer, so in the home state of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson they aren't welcome.
Now comes North Carolina, whose Wildlife Resources Commission has banned the importing of any elk (as well as deer) until federal officials can assure the state that the animals haven't been exposed to the contagious chronic wasting disease in the past five years.
Chronic wasting disease, which causes the animals gradually to lose weight and die, has shown up in captive elk herds in six states and two Canadian provinces and among free-ranging wild deer and elk herds in five states and Saskatchewan. The only test for the disease requires the examination of the brain tissues of dead animals.
Naturally, North Carolina is worried, and it has begun to restrict the movement of commercially raised deer or elk within the state.
If the disease shows up in North Carolina, state wildlife biologists and veterinarians say the state's deer herds would have to be eliminated over thousands of acres wherever it is found. Already, Wisconsin wildlife officials have agreed that an estimated 15,000 deer in a 287-square mile area need to be killed. The Wisconsin area in question has had 14 deer that were found to carry the disease.
As happens among domestic cattle that suffer from hoof and mouth disease, the eradication of deer who have chronic wasting disease is necessary to keep it from spreading even further.
Turkey column gets tongue lashing After our May 12 turkey hunting column and a brief paragraph regarding the celebration of Thanksgiving Day, turkey dinners, New England Indians and the Pilgrims (much of the information supplied by the National Wild Turkey Federation), reader Michael Rybikowsky, wrote, "I would like to offer a couple of corrections. First, there were no Pilgrims or Puritans here in the 16th century. The earliest English settlement was in Jamestown, Va., May 14, 1607. Second, you talk about the first documented Thanksgiving being held by the Pilgrims. The first documented, official Thanksgiving was held in Virginia before the Pilgrims ever got here.
"I am very proud of my family heritage, the first families of Virginia on the maternal side. The lie that has been put forth for years about the Pilgrims celebrating the first Thanksgiving has been told so many times that it has gotten a mantle of truth about it."
So I've been tongue-lashed. Not only that, in a subsequent e-mail Rybikowsky admonished me about not answering him fast enough, and he threatened to get hold of the managing editor to lodge a complaint about my poor manners. That would indeed have been unfortunate because, like Rybikowsky, he, too, is a Virginian. I might have been in some real trouble.
Fishing celebration On Saturday, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge will play host to a series of activities to celebrate National Fishing and Boating Week. Things will get started at 7:30 a.m. with a walk to investigate the refuge's feathered anglers. Meet at the tent located at the Pony Corral along Beach Road to explore how birds catch fish. A clamming demonstration will follow at 9:30 a.m. and one on crabbing at 1:30 p.m. Both of these activities also will meet at the staging tent, which also features fishing make it/take it activities and fishing information.
The wildlife refuge can be reached by driving east on Route 50, across the Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. When you reach Salisbury, turn onto Route 13 south. Follow it into Virginia and watch for Chincoteague Island signs.
Nearly a half-million deer How about those Pennsylvanians? During the state's 2001-2002 deer hunting season, 486,014 deer were taken. That's actually less than the number shot during the previous season, when 504,600 deer were tagged. The count for antlered deer was 203,247, and the doe numbers stood at 282,767. Bowhunters scored on a little more than 74,000 deer; flintlock rifle users got nearly 29,000; and the rest were taken with modern rifles.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday, and his Fishing Report every Friday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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