Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Hoof Disease Found in Idaho Elk for the First Time

The first confirmed case of hoof disease in Idaho elk has the state on alert.

Idaho Fish and Game confirmed and released news of a case of Treponema Associated Hoof Disease (TAHD) in an elk harvested by a hunter in 2018. It is the first time a case has been recorded in the state.

The confirmed elk samples were sent to Washington State University, where an on-going Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) research project has been established to learn more about the disease.

Idaho had dealt with some information or observations hinting towards TAHD-positive elk, but no definitive cases were ever recorded.

Wild elk herds infected with hoof disease have been previously confirmed in Washington and Northwest Oregon.

TAHD is associated with a spirochete bacterium, Treponema spp. The disease is marked by hoof abnormalities, ranging from broken or elongated hooves, as well as missing hooves altogether. Ungulates with TAHD often have trouble walking, and the potential impacts are often dire.

The definitive cause of the disease has yet to be discovered. Even if an elk population has seen a TAHD-positive confirmation, the transfer process from one animal to another is not fully understood. Other susceptible animals (especially domestic livestock) and overall wildlife and habitat ramifications are unknown as well.

Idaho Fish and Game will increase surveillance for TAHD in the state and distribute more information to the public. Their hope is to receive help reporting elk that appear to have trouble walking, or that have odd-looking hooves. Anyone who witnesses such behavior can report incidents online or call Fish and Game's Wildlife Health Laboratory at (208) 939-9171. Photographs of the animals, and specifically their infected limbs, can be used as evidence, as well as the actual lower legs for examination.

Now that the first animal in Idaho have been conformed to have TAHD, wildlife managers will have a new condition to address.