20070703_Picture136Pennsylvania Game Commission officials recently reported that there have been four cases involving elk that have died or rumen acidosis, which is directly related to artificial feeding that causes an abrupt change in an elk’s diet that wreaks havoc with its digestive system.  Feeding elk is illegal, as it causes problems by habituating elk to find food aroundhomes and can be dangerous to those who attempt to feed elk by hand.”So far, we have been able to document four cases of such deaths,” said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian.  “There have been other deaths that we believed may have been caused by such feeding, but, in those cases the animal was either decomposed or other circumstances prevented it from obtaining the carcass in time for laboratory analysis to take place.”

Dr. Cottrell explained that elk, as well as white-tailed deer, adapt to a winter diet of primarily woody vegetation and they will die of acidosis caused by a build up of lactic acid in the rumen, chambers of its four-part stomach that is responsible for fermentation of food.  If they consume too much high-fermentable grain, such as corn, which is the most common artificial feed put out by local residents, the pH level falls quickly and a shock-like syndrome can occur.