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.”