Fish &Wildlife will hold two public meetings on hoof disease
State wildlife managers believe they are close to determining the cause of hoof disease in southwest Washington elk and plan to hold two meetings in April to share results to date and answer questions from the public.
The Washington Department of Fish &Wildlife has scheduled public meetings at the following times and locations:
• Vancouver – April 15, 6-8 p.m., Community Room, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way.
• Chehalis – April 16, 6-8 p.m., V.R. Lee Community Building (Recreation Park), 221 S.W. 13th Street.
Sandra Jonker, Fish &Wildlife regional wildlife manager, said department staff will discuss results to date of ongoing tests designed to identify the cause of deformed or missing hooves in elk, primarily in Cowlitz, Pacific and Wahkiakum counties.
Since 2009, the department has collected tissue samples from 43 elk for testing at diagnostic laboratories at Washington State University, Colorado State University, the University of Wyoming, the USDA National Animal Disease Center and the University of Liverpool in England.
Jonker said recent tests of diseased hooves point to the presence of treponeme bacteria, which have been linked to hoof disease in cows and sheep in many parts of the world.
Kristin Mansfield, Fish &Wildlife epidemiologist, said treponemes have been linked to an increasing incidence of hoof disease in livestock for two decades, but have never been documented in elk or other wildlife.
There is no evidence that these bacteria are harmful to humans, she said, noting that tests indicate the disease is limited to hooves and does not affect the animals’ meat or organs.
Mansfield said scientists believe animals pick up and transmit the disease through wet soil, characteristic of the lowlands of southwest Washington. Livestock infected with treponeme bacteria may respond to repeated courses of antibiotics, but frequently become re-infected once they are returned to pasture, she said.
For purposes of comparison, WDFW has collected elk from areas both affected and not affected by the disease, Jonker said. Testing of tissues taken from 11 elk in January will help determine whether treponemes are the primary cause of the disease or opportunistic bacteria that invade hooves that are already damaged, she said.
Meanwhile, Fish &Wildlife is developing a management approach based on input from department staff and two advisory groups created to help guide the department’s course:
• A 14-member technical advisory group, established to recommend diagnostic approaches, will assess findings of the diagnostic laboratories and advise on disease control options. The group is composed of veterinarians from universities, government agencies and local veterinary practices in Washington and other states.
• An 18-member public working group, made up of people from southwest Washington, is working with Fish &Wildlife to share information and discuss management and research needs. The advisory group includes county commissioners, public and private landowners, hunters, sportsman groups, local business owners, and others concerned about the area elk herd.
As a precautionary measure, Fish &Wildlife will ask the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to adopt a new regulation requiring hunters to remove the hooves of any elk taken in southwest Washington and leave them in the area to prevent the disease from spreading.
Commission will consider adopting new hunting rules at April meeting
The Washington Fish &Wildlife Commission will consider adopting proposed changes to state hunting rules for deer, elk, moose and other game species during a public meeting April 11-12 in Olympia.
The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish &Wildlife, will convene at 8:30 a.m. each day in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building on the state capitol campus at 1111 Washington St. S.E.
An agenda for the meeting is available on the commission’s website at: http://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/.
On April 11, the commission will consider adopting new rules for hunting in 2014 that would:
• Reduce fees for multi-season deer permit holders; master hunters with special permits for deer or elk damage tags; special permit holders who purchase a second deer tag; and hunters who are issued damage prevention or kill permits for second deer tags.
• Decrease elk hunting permits by more than 400 in the Mount St. Helens area now that the elk population is more in balance with area habitat.
• Boost the number of antlerless elk hunting permits by 620 for the Colockum area, where the population exceeds management goals.
• Streamline the process for issuing special use permits to hunters with disabilities, which enable them to use modified hunting equipment.
Those and other proposed changes in state hunting rules are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/regulations/development.html. The commission held public hearings on those proposals during a meeting March 7-8 in Moses Lake.
In other business, the commission will consider approving three land transactions proposed by Fish &Wildlife, including the acquisition of 640 acres near Wenatchee in a partnership with Chelan County. The other transactions involve accepting the transfer of one acre of land near Yakima and the exchange of three-quarters of an acre with the City of Sumner.
The first day’s session will conclude with a briefing by Fish &Wildlife staff on tribal hunting in Washington.
On April 12, the commission will hold a public hearing on Puget Sound smelt-fishing rules, and hear staff briefings on the results of last year’s fisheries for Dungeness crab and shrimp in Puget Sound.
Daily World staff reports