If you see limping elk in Southwest Washington this hunting season (or any time, for that matter), WDFW wants to hear about it.
The agency is asking anyone who spots one between the crest of the South Cascades, southern slopes of the Olympics and mouth of the Columbia to report their observation here.
A map of public reports gathered since 2012 shows afflicted animals have been seen elsewhere in Western Washington, but managers are most interested in reports from Grays Harbor, Mason, Thurston, Lewis, Pacific, Wahkiakum, Clark, Cowlitz and Skamania Counties.
“Our focus now is on assessing the spread of the disease to other parts of the region,” said Southwest Washington wildlife manager Sandra Jonker in Vancouver. “Gaining more information about the incidence and geographical distribution of the disease will help determine how best to manage it.”
Mapping software allows hunters and others who spot limpers while afield to be able to report them via cell phones.
WDFW continues to maintain that laboratory testing shows the hoof ailment is very similar to a “contagious bacterial infection in sheep,” but freelance Seattle journalist Jon Gosch has received some media attention for his dogged investigation and questions about whether possibly herbicides used on industrial forests might play a role.
Blogged Scott Sandsberry at the Yakima Herald-Republic recently:
Civic leaders in southwest Washington communities, as well as several members of the WDFW’s citizen panel working on the issue, are demanding what Gosch and some of his supporters have been saying for months: that those crippled elk be separated and studied until wildlife biologists can actually figure out once and for all what’s behind the disease.
That seems like a no-brainer to me. (That — “a no-brainer” — is also precisely how a member of that working panel described it to Gosch.)
Seems like a good idea to me as well.
In the meanwhile, in an attempt to keep the untreatable disease from spreading, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission approved a rule change that requires hunters to leave the feet of ANY elk they kill in Southwest Washington’s Game Management Units 501-564, and 642-699.