CHEYENNE, WYO. — Veterinary researchers at the University of Wyoming are working with the state's Game and Fish Department (G&F) to identify
lichen toxins believed to be sickening elk, leaving them unable to stand.
In the Red Rim area, southwest of Rawlins, about 80 elk unable to stand were killed by G&F personnel in the first two weeks
of March. A similar die-off occurred in early 2004.
Merl Raisbeck, a professor in the UW College of Agriculture's Department of Veterinary Sciences, and PhD student Becky Dailey
are focusing on Xanthoparmelia chlorochroa, a lichen common in the West, or secondary metabolites in the lichen.
In tests with sheep, they found that lichen samples from 2004 caused more illness than 2005 or 2006 varieties, and are looking
into why the X. chlorochroa poisonings occur in specific areas and why the lichen seems to be poisonous one year and not another. A specific environmental
condition may be responsible, they said.