Hoof rot strikes elk

February 27, 2013

By Michele Mihalovich

Corrected version. The earlier story said Erland found that the three elk had selenium and copper deficiencies.

Elk hoof rot, a disease seen predominantly among elk in Southwest Washington, has found its way to the Snoqualmie Valley herds.

Harold Erland, a wildlife biologist with the local Elk Management Group, said Feb. 20 that three elk have been found dead with the disease. There are currently 430 elk in the Snoqualmie Valley, with 150 of those living in and around North Bend, he said.

One North Bend elk dropped dead right at a resident’s home on Maloney Grove Road last August, and another was found near the Encompass parking lot, he said.

The third one was struck by a vehicle and was later found dead at Snoqualmie Middle School on Feb. 17 in Snoqualmie, but Erland said the elk showed signs of the hoof rot disease.

Erland said the disease literally causes an elk’s hoof, or hooves, to rot. He said the elk stumbles and limps around, but at a certain point, is unable to forage and starves to death.

Elk with the hoof disease were first observed in southwest Washington in the mid-1990s, and some elk in Oregon were also exhibiting the disease, according to the Washington Department of Natural Resources website.

But this is the first time the disease has presented itself in the Snoqualmie Valley and it’s not known how it got here, Erland said.

“Because we don’t know how it got here, we’re not sure how to contain it,” he said. “Cattle and sheep can be inoculated for the disease, but that really can’t be done with elk.”

Erland, who performed the necropsies on the three dead elk, did not collect blood samples. He said research has shown that elk afflicted with hoof rot often have selenium and copper deficiencies, and he will ask the Department of Fish and Wildlife if he can put salt blocks fortified with selenium and copper out for the elk to see if it helps.

“Right now, the problem isn’t that bad for our elk, but I don’t want to wait for it to get bad,” Erland said. “For right now, we’ll be keeping our eyes out for limping elk, because that is a good indication of hoof rot.”

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Comments

3 Responses to “Hoof rot strikes elk”

  1. Steve Edmunds on March 1st, 2013 11:00 am

    This doesn’t sound like a good way to die for an elk, but it is a natural occurrence. I believe this herd is at least twice the size the valley can support. So any natural way for the herd to shrink is a benefit for the rest of the creatures sharing this valley. Providing salt blocks and other supplements will increase the size of the herd and the problems that it brings.

  2. Wildlife News Roundup (Feb 23-March 1, 2013) | The Wildlife Society News on March 4th, 2013 9:10 am

    [...] Hoof Rot Strikes Elk in Washington (SnoValley Star) Elk hoof rot, a disease seen predominantly among elk in Southwest Washington, has found its way to the Snoqualmie Valley herds. Harold Erland, a wildlife biologist with the local Elk Management Group, said that three elk have been found dead with the disease. There are currently 430 elk in the Snoqualmie Valley, with 150 of those living in and around North Bend, he said. More [...]

  3. Bob Schlecht (Bob's Sporting Goods) on December 13th, 2013 11:11 pm

    The Hoof Rot disease in SW WA has been “watched” since about 1990. The Game Dept. has plotted the the location but until recently they have done nothing to study this problem. The current map shows an “explosion” of incidence when compared to years past. The problem is geometrically increasing. Our citizen group fears for the elk heard in SW WA as well as the potential to decimate the elk heard in other areas. Currently the Game Dept. is sending samples overseas in an attempt to identify the cause. This process is important but is slow.

    We feel that a more active approach is also warranted. Harvesting infected animals and even darting or harvesting animals before they show symptoms in order to study the disease may be warranted. Another approach might be to completely isolate and study a heard of elk in order to more closely watch the process.

    One important course is for sportsmen and sport groups to contact the Game Commission and express your concern. Point out that resources (both man-power and money) must be reallocated to this project – – NOW.

    The following factors have been mentioned as possible causes and/or contributing causes to this condition:

    Changes in soil conditions and water supplies due to changes in forestry practices.
    Over population of elk.
    Increased trauma to elk due to the increase in overall length of hunting seasons (Aug through Jan)

    We feel that this situation should be viewed as the possible extinction of elk and dealt with accordingly. One only has to look to the East at the Chronic Wasting Disease problem. I look at it as the risk of reacting and acting to slowly is MUCH greater than the risk of acting to fast!

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