Wildlife officials in Pennsylvania are refusing to let a wandering elk back into the state due to the possibility of it spreading chronic wasting disease.
The 3-year-old male elk was one of three animals that escaped from a farm in Aleppo, Pa. last year when a gate was accidentally left open. Two cow elk were returned shortly but the male was nowhere to be found.
"Last winter, I bet we spent clean up through March ... looking for it," Sharon Richter, the elk's owner, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The male was recently found wandering in Pleasant Valley, W.Va., and the Richter family wants the elk to be returned home. Officials from West Virginia's Department of Natural Resources said they want to return the elk, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But Pennsylvania's wildlife officials denied that request because they want to keep the state free of chronic waste disease.
"We told them, no, they couldn't bring the animal back," Samantha Krepps, a spokeswoman for Pennsylvania's Department of Agriculture, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "We're CWD-free and we really want to keep it that way."
Chronic waste disease is a highly contagious and fatal neurological disease that attacks an animal's brain. And it can survive in an environment long after an infected animal has left. Cases have been reported in states bordering Pennsylvania: West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The officials fear the elk might have been exposed to it since crossing state borders.