The hoof disease that’s been crippling elk in southwestern Washington for years apparently has taken hold farther north, state Fish and Wildlife officials say.
Preliminary tests indicate bacteria found in an abnormal hoof taken from an elk killed in a vehicle collision in Skagit County east of Sedro-Woolley may be the same strain found in the Mount St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds farther south.
While three elk killed by hunters in neighboring Whatcom County tested free of the bacteria, the sample from Skagit County revealed microscopic evidence of treponeme-associated hoof disease, said Kristin Mansfield, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife epidemiologist.
“We routinely send disfigured elk hooves from around the state for testing, but this is the first one outside of southwest Washington that shows evidence of this disease,” Mansfield said. “At this point it is unclear whether this condition will spread to other elk as it has in the affected area.”
Studies and further testing is underway on the hoof samples, she said.
Hoof disease was diagnosed in southwest Washington elk herds in 2014, after five years of analysis by five independent laboratories. While relatively common in livestock, hoof disease caused by treponeme bacteria had not previously been diagnosed in wildlife.
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