"There is still some concern about chronic wasting disease," he added. "Animals that carry the disease can go years before starting to show symptoms. That's one of the reasons we're keeping the elk isolated."
Subsequent checks with authorities in Pennsylvania revealed that the captive-deer facility the elk escaped from had been certified that it was free of the disease.
DNR officials had hoped to ship the animal back to its owner, but Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Pennsylvania Game Commission officials refused to allow it.
"I think it was probably because we have chronic wasting disease here in West Virginia, even though our CWD containment zone is more than 100 miles from where the elk was roaming around," Johansen said.
Biologists from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources performed the actual capture. Johansen said Kentucky has a large elk population and biologists there are used to tranquilizing and capturing the animals, which can weigh as much as 700 pounds.
"They also have a [tranquilizing] drug that we don't have," Johansen added. "They were able to dart the elk and get it ready for transport a lot faster than we could have."
A U.S. Department of Agriculture official took blood samples from the elk and tested the samples for bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis. Both tests turned up negative.
The elk was loaded into a horse trailer for its trip to the Wildlife Center. Johansen said it appears to have recovered from being sedated and is settling into life in a 2-acre holding pen in a nonpublic area of the facility.
"Right now, it's not available for public viewing," he said. "At some point it might be, provided we can introduce it without causing conflict with the bull in the main elk enclosure. The last thing we want is to put this animal in the enclosure and have them start fighting. Mature bull elk can severely injure or even kill one another with their antlers. We certainly wouldn't want that to happen."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.