Hoof disease in elk has turned up in Washington’s Blues, echoing confirmed cases on the Oregon side of the range and coming after Idaho earlier this month said an infected wapiti was harvested last fall across the Snake River from the mountains.
WDFW’s Kyle Garrison says hooves submitted by a muzzleloader hunter who killed the animal southeast of Walla Walla in mid-January came back late last week from a Washington State University lab as positive for treponeme-associated hoof disease.
The cow elk was taken on a permit in the Pikes Peak area of Game Management Unit 154.
Garrison says the initial belief is that there may not be more affected elk there, based on the high public visibility of the herd, but his agency plans to ramp up monitoring, including spending more time looking for limpers during upcoming aerial surveys.
The news was first reported by the Walla Walla Union Bulletin last night.
The disease makes it more difficult for elk to get around and there is no treatment for it, according to WDFW.
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Last year, after hoof disease was found in elk east of Washington’s Cascade Crest for the first time, the agency began euthanizing members of a Trout Lake herd, removing 12 through the end of 2018 through a combination of state staff and landowner efforts and special damage hunt permits.
Garrison says that he has two more sets of hooves from elk taken by master hunters to submit to WSU for testing.
“We’re still actively monitoring and actively removing limpers when we can” in the Trout Lake valley, he says.
Further west WDFW is conducting a four-year study of survival rates of infected cow elk, as well as the disease’s affects on fecundity and herd movement. Some 76 animals are part of the study.
To try and stop or slow the spread of hoof disease, WDFW is also proposing expanding the area where hooves must be left in the field to all of Western Washington.
That follows on recent confirmed cases just south of Olympic National Park and past years’ requirements that initially applied to just several units in the Cowlitz River basin, then all of Southwest Washington and units stretching up the I-5 corridor to Canada.
Public comment will be taken on the proposal at the Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting this Friday in Spokane.
Garrison also encouraged members of the public to share their sightings of limping elk, both recent ones and any they may have seen in the past.
With this latest confirmation, hoof disease isn’t just on the radar in Eastern Washington, but a growing threat there.