December 20, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

No deer or elk trapping will be conducted in Union County or anywhere else in the state this winter because of concern about the possible spread of tuberculosis.

A dead elk in Grant County was determined to have had tuberculosis. The captive animal lived on a private elk ranch outside of Kimberly. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced the diagnosis on Dec. 13.

The department responded by stopping all deer and elk trapping. Ron Anglin, administrator of the ODFWs wildlife division, announced this week that all deer and elk trapping programs have been put on hold while the tuberculosis issue is being evaluated. Deer and elk are trapped in order to transport them.

The ODFWs directive has put the brakes on an elk-trapping program at the Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area which started this month. About 40 elk had already been trapped and transported to Wallowa County, said ODFW biologist Jim Cadwell of La Grande.

In addition, the ODFW was considering trapping deer which live in and around La Grande. This is done to remove deer which are causing problems in town. Plans for this have been called off.

The ODFW has trapped deer and elk in Union County for a number of years. Trapping is always conducted in the winter when there is less vegetation available. It is easier to draw the big game animals into traps with hay trails in the winter.

The elk that died in Grant County was one of 51 head imported from Kansas in May 2000, according to the ODFW. The herd had been tested for tuberculosis many times. All of the tests had come back negative.

The owner of the herd suspected that something was wrong after noticing an abnormality in the lung of the elk that died. He then took the elk to a veterinarian who had it tested.

There is no evidence that any wildlife in Oregon has tuberculosis, said Jack Mortenson, a veterinarian based at the ODFWs Portland office.

The disease can be spread among deer, elk and cattle, Mortenson said.

He noted that it is hard to spread tuberculosis to horses.

Horses are naturally resistant to the bacterium, he said.

The tuberculosis which has a deadly impact on elk is a slow growing bacterium, Mycobacterium bovis.

This bacterium can be transmitted to humans from elk. Prolonged exposure is needed for this to occur, however.

People can get tuberculosis by eating contaminated meat that has not been well cooked. Mortenson said that cooking meat at 165 degrees Fahrenheit will kill the tuberculosis bacterium.

More information on the disease in wildlife can be obtained from the ODFWs web site: