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Washington officials confirm case of crippling, highly infectious elk hoof disease in the Blue Mountains

connectVideoWashington Dept of Fish and Wildlife: A case of elk hoof disease is discovered in Washington’s Blue Mountains

At least one elk in Washington’s Blue Mountains is attached to a crippling and deforming condition known as elk hoof disease, state wildlife officials announced this week.

The disease — scientifically known as treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD) — was discovered in a moose shot by a hunter in January. The hunter, who has not yet been identified, noticed the elk’s hooves were deformed, which led him to the animal having to the officials with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), who later sent them to researchers at the Washington animal disease Diagnostic Laboratory at Washington State University for testing.

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The four deformed hooves of an elk with hoof disease have been shown in this lab photo by researchers studying the disease plaguing elk in southwest Washington.
(Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)

The results were positive for the crippling disease that “causes of hoof deformities, which can moose walk with a pronounced limp,” the WDFW said in a Tuesday statement.

The confirmed case is the “farthest east we have documented hoof disease in Washington,” Kyle Garrison, WDFW’s statewide hoof disease coordinator, told The Spokesman-Review.

Scientists are still researching the disease, that is not known to affect humans. It is probably caused by a type of infectious organism and the researchers suspect that the bacteria may be “maintained and/ or transmitted in moist soil by the hooves of the moose and/ or other animals, such as cows and sheep,” the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) says.

That said, much is still unknown about each hoof disease and there is currently no cure or preventive vaccine. The WDFW says that the disease “seems to be very contagious among each of gender or age.

It is somewhat common in Washington, are becoming more common in 2008 when the hunters and outdoorsmen have been reported, each with deformed, broken or missing need. This led to a “scientific investigation of the underlying cause,” according to the ODFW. The wildlife agency estimates that around “20 to 90” percent of the cattle in Washington have shown lameness that can be related to each of hoof disease.

Another example of each hoof disease.
(Oregon Department of Wildlife)

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“Each with the disease can have deformed, overgrown, broken or need. These lesions can be painful and cause limping or lameness when walking,” the ODFW explained, although noted other diseases or disorders can also lead to such abnormalities in the moose.

“It is definitely something we should all care about,” Garrison added. “It is a disease which is very difficult to manage and we don’t know what the future has in store for the disease expression in the Blues [Blue Mountains].”

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