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Elk put down near Slope, Billings County border due to unknown causes

Press Photo by Jennifer McBride Elk make their way through the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Sunday near Medora. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department recently had to put down an elk because of unknown circumstances. There was no apparent gunshot or vehicle injuries. Test results should be competed in a couple weeks. NDGF Department big game supervisor Bruce Stillings and the Bowman County district game warden Butch Cox said they can't speculate on the cause of the death until ...

The regular season opener for elk is nearly a month away, but an unknown mystery is already taking shape.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department had to euthanize an elk near the Slope and Billings county border this past week, because of unknown circumstances.

"An owner from southern Slope County said there was a bull elk laying off the road a couple hundred yards," NDGF Department big game supervisor Bruce Stillings said. "It wasn't able to get up on its own."

NDGF game warden Butch Cox said a farmer found the elk and it had no apparent injuries.

"There were no obvious signs that it got hit by a car or shot," Stillings said. "We euthanized the animal and loaded the whole carcass."

The elk was sent to Bismarck for diagnosis. Stillings and Cox said they can't speculate on what happened to the elk at this point. The test results are expected within a couple weeks.

"We shipped it over to Bismarck, they are doing all the tests and everything," Cox said, adding it was the NDGF Department.

"We'll be doing a necropsy and determining its cause of death," Stillings said. "At this time, the cause of death is unknown."

Cox said he hasn't seen that type of situation with an elk before, but he has seen it with deer and antelope.

"It's pretty preliminary," Cox said. "I wouldn't even want to speculate."

Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in elk in other states around the country. CWD has already been found in deer in the state of North Dakota, but until the lab results are complete, the cause of death is unknown.

As a whole, the number of elk licenses for North Dakota is at 301. The regular season starts Sept. 7 and ends Dec. 31.

License numbers are down by 200 this year because of the high success rate of the elk reduction program at Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

"Licenses were reduced, but for those that drew a license this year should be a good opportunity," Stillings said.

There are four main elk hunting units and after hunters removed 868 elk from TRNP, those licenses were taken out of E3 and E4 units.

"The park's been removing elk to get that population down to their population objective," Stillings said. "That population has really been decreased."