Outdoors

Guesses on cause of elk hoof rot

The hoof disease afflicting Southwest Washington elk most likely is caused by a bacteria, says the assistant director for wildlife of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
“Currently, our best guess right now is it is some sort of bacteria,” Nate Pamplin told the Elk Hoof Disease Public Working Group in Vancouver this week. “If it’s an infectious bacteria, we have the technical collaborators working to try to figure out what strain and the species of bacteria.”
Kristin Mansfield, agency veterinarian, agreed with Pamplin.
“It is just that — a best guess at this point,” she said. “That is based on a couple of things in my mind. First of all, the observed pattern of spread….is consistent with infectious organisms. Second, major diseases in domestic animals are infectious bacteria.”
Tom Besser of Washington State University urged state officials and others not to jump to conclusions.
“There are also non-infectious causes I think could result in the kind of hoof cracks, and hoof cracks lead to bacterial infection, we could still see this kind of inflammation with something that is inherently non-infectious at the primary level,” Besser said. “A careful and systematic approach is essential.”
The key is learning what happens when an elk initially gets lesions, he said.
“What starts this process?” Besser asked.
“We’re on tract on do that. It’s going to be frustratingly slow.”

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