When someone in government does something stupid or embarrassing, the silence from official sources can be tomb-like.
Case in point? Let's call it "The Saga of the Wandering Elk."
Sometime last year, a bull elk escaped from a Greene Co., Pa., captive cervid facility and strolled across the Mason-Dixon line into Wetzel Co., W.Va.
It stayed there for a while, wandered back to Pennsylvania through the holidays, and recently turned up in Marshall County, W.Va., where it has become somewhat of a celebrity.
State wildlife officials are worried, and one can hardly blame them for their concern.
Elk can carry chronic wasting disease, bovine tuberculosis and brucellosis. The former kills elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer, and the latter two kill cattle.
Captive cervid facilities - places where deer and/or elk are kept behind tall fences and sold for their meat or shot for their antlers by wealthy people - are notorious incubators for chronic wasting disease.
Recent CWD outbreaks in Minnesota and Missouri wild deer were traced directly to captive cervid facilities. Division of Natural Resources officials worry that the footloose elk might also be diseased, and that it might infect local deer or cattle.
Marshall County isn't exactly an agricultural hotspot, so the chance of spreading brucellosis or bovine tuberculosis is small. On the other hand, Marshall is home to one of West Virginia's most highly concentrated deer populations. If chronic wasting disease gets started there, it could easily spread into the Northern Panhandle and down the entire Ohio Valley.
To prevent such a possibility, DNR officials would like to shoot the elk. They haven't come out and said they would, but they issued a news release that strongly implied it.