Found Injured Wildlife?

Contact a local
Wildlife Rehabilitator

 
For more information contact a WDFW Regional Office
 
Examples of elk hoof lesions
Help Monitor Hoof Disease

Wildlife managers are seeking reports on elk with hoof deformities observed in specific areas of southwest Washington.  View a map and detailed instructions on how to report observations in these areas.

Publicly-Reported Limping Elk or Dead Elk with Hoof Deformities
(Observations from 2012 to present.)

Limping = Red, Dead = Black
View larger map

Bacterial Hoof Disease in
Southwest Washington Elk

Over the past decade, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has received a growing number of reports of elk hobbled by missing or misshapen hooves in southwest Washington. This is a major concern for hunters, area residents and state wildlife managers alike. Analysis of tissue from deformed hooves indicates the condition is likely caused by a bacterial disease similar to one found in livestock.

Since 2008, the disease has spread from the Cowlitz River Basin to Pacific, Grays Harbor, Lewis, Clark and Wahkiakum counties, affecting the St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds. Scientists believe the bacteria are transmitted through the wet soil of lowland areas.

New hoof rule for SW Washington elk
Hunters are now required to remove the hooves of any elk they harvest in southwest Washington and leave them on-site.

The new rule, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife, is designed to help reduce the spread of hoof disease that affects the region's elk herds. It applies to all elk taken in southwest Washington, regardless of whether they show signs of the disease.

The rule applies to Game Management Units 501-564 and 642-699 in Cowlitz, Wahkiakum, Skamania, Clark, Grays Harbor, Thurston, Pierce, Pacific, Lewis and Klickitat counties.

Test results of diseased hooves sent to five diagnostic laboratories since 2013 point to infectious treponeme bacteria, which have been linked to digital dermatitis in domestic sheep and cattle. A 16-member technical panel of veterinarians and researchers, formed by WDFW to review test results from affected elk, has supported those findings.

First reported in Italy in 1974, digital dermatitis now occurs in livestock throughout the United States and other countries, but has never before been documented in elk or other wildlife. There is no evidence that the bacteria are harmful to humans, and tests have shown that the disease does not affect animals' meat or organs. However, there is no vaccine for the disease and no proven options for treating it in the field.

WDFW is continuing to work with scientists here and abroad to learn more about the disease, and is planning broad-based field studies to determine its prevalence and geographical spread starting in the summer of 2014.

Back ground information information (Merck Veterinary Manual):