Scientists are puzzling over what could have killed an entire herd of elk found dead in northeastern New Mexico. According to KRQE, a herd of about 100 elk were found dead on a ranch near Mora, NM.
The elk had not been shot, so the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is trying to evaluate the bodies and find out what killed the animals. One possible culprit would be Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), an illness carried by insect bites.
“With EHD, an elk could get a fever,” said Game and Fish spokesperson Rachel Shockley to KRQE. “It’s usually a pretty fast illness, and up to eight to 36 hours later the animals go into shock, and then they die.”
The animals’ bodies were all found within an area of about one square mile, indicating that the disease spread quickly among the herd. Shockley said that EHD is typically most dangerous at this time of year, when temperatures are high and herds stay close together at water sources.
Tissue samples from the elk and water samples from nearby streams and creeks have been sent off for testing.
EHD is not transmissible to humans or other animals besides elk and deer. Nonetheless, some bow-hunting expeditions for elk are being canceled ahead of the start of elk bow-hunting season, which begins September 3.
Hunters are urged not to fire on or consume any animals that appear sick, but rather to call and report them to Fish and Game officials.
Watch video about this story, embedded below via KRQE: