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Elk herd may have to be destroyed after CWD confirmed

ST. PAUL (AP) -- State health officials said they'll decide within the coming weeks the fate of the remaining elk at an Aitkin County farm where an elk died of chronic wasting disease.

There are 48 elk at Wapiti Hills Ranch owned by Clayton and Donna Lueck, according to Health Department officials.

The 5-year-old male elk died of an unknown illness two weeks ago. Its brain was tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's lab as part of a voluntary program to monitor the spread of chronic wasting disease. The entire herd was quarantined after two separate tests came back positive.

CWD tests on four other animals from the Wapiti Hills Ranch were negative.

The Aitkin County herd is the 23rd farm herd nationally to be hit with chronic wasting disease.

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Will Hueston of the University of Minnesota's Center for Animal Health and Food Safety said in all the other cases, the disease was contained within the herds. But Hueston said in all but two cases, all the penned animals were destroyed.

Galen Adkins, a district veterinarian with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, examined the herd Thursday.

"It's tough on him 1/8Lueck 3/8," Adkins said. He said the state's action was "really drastic," and he added, "It's just killing him."

Adkins said Lueck had "an excellent set of records" on the herd. Officials said the elk that contracted the disease was bought from a Stearns County farm in 2000. That farm could also be quarantined.

Incubation of the disease occurs from a few months to a few years, officials say.

Officials with the State Board of Animal Health said they will continue to investigate the source of the infection and whether other animals have been exposed.

The Stearns County farm could also be quarantined.

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