Elk hoof disease legislation gains support

Legislation directing Washington State University involvement in monitoring and assessing elk hoof disease in Southwest Washington got solid support today before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

In Olympia, the committee had a public hearing on 2SSB 5474, which directs the WSU College of Veterinary Medicine to establish an elk monitoring system in Southwest Washington and to assess causes and potential solutions for elk hoof disease.

The college must work collaboratively with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the state veterinarian and tribes, according to the bill. WSU must provide updates to the Legislature and state Fish and Wildlife Commission at least annually.

The measure has passed the state Senate with a 49-0 vote.

“We feel this is a very positive approach to get a more analytical-type review of the hoof rot issue and take more aggressive action,” Mark Smith, owner of Eco Park along the upper North Fork of the Toutle River, told the committee.

Observations of elk with deformed, broken, or missing hooves have increased dramatically in Southwest Washington in the the past decade.

The Cowlitz River valley is the epicenter of observations of ailing elk, but sightings also have been reported by the public in the Willapa Hills, Mount St. Helens, south Olympic Peninsula and in the Skagit River valley, plus northern Oregon.

Tests conducted by scientists in the United States and abroad show these abnormalities are strongly associated with treponeme bacteria, known to cause digital dermatitis in cattle, sheep and goats.