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Gnarly Hoof Deformities in Washington Elk Have Wildlife Officials Concerned

Hoof deformities have been reported since the mid ’90s in southwest Washington.

The state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife is working to find out why more limping elk, or elk with missing hooves entirely, have been spotted in recent years.

Hunters have seen, and in some cases harvested, elk with hooves like the ones in the photo above, and the DFW is collaborating with experts in the US and elsewhere to get to the bottom of the deformity’s causes.

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Experts have said that once a hoof deformity establishes itself within a herd, it can be extremely difficult to eradicate.

There are several deformities that affect domestic livestock, with complex causes, transmission, prevention and treatment. Some potential causes of the Washington elk case have been ruled out, and recent studies are pointing at an infectious bacterium as the likely culprit.

A technical advisory group of veterinarians and researchers has been created by the DFW in hopes of finding a management option through research and collaboration. Hunters are also being asked to report any signs of limping or seemingly diseased elk.

Though this map shows reported cases of hoof disease in southwest Washington, the total number of elk affected is unknown. The map depicts cases reported as of March 24, 2014.


Image via Washington DFW

Washington’s DFW has also employed the public’s help and feedback with the Elk Hoof Disease Public Working Group (EHDPWG) to better understand the prevalence and scope of the situation.

Back in February, suspected that the hoof deformity could contribute to decreased hunting permits sold for the areas where affected elk have been reported.

Have you ever spotted an elk or other game animal with a deformity or disease?


Featured image via Washington DFW/Han, S., K. Mansfield, et al.


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Gnarly Hoof Deformities in Washington Elk Have Wildlife Officials Concerned