Elk hoof disease, is an emerging disease of wild elk that has been detected in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California. Some refer to the condition as “hoof rot,” but that name is misleading because it is different from the well-known disease of domestic livestock. Elk hoof disease is likely caused by a combination of factors and a spiral shaped Treponeme bacteria is routinely found in the foot infection. This finding has resulted in the name Treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD).
The number of elk with abnormal hooves and lameness has increased dramatically in this region in the past decade. There is currently no way to treat the disease in wild elk, so as with most diseases in wildlife, prevention of spread is a key to management. Future management will be developed based on studies that are currently underway to better understand disease causes and the impact on elk survival.
In 2017, the Washington State Legislature mandated Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine as the state lead in developing a program to monitor and assess causes of and potential solutions for elk hoof disease. An initial $1.5 million biennial budget was allocated to the college to begin addressing this issue on July 1, 2017. The work is part of ongoing programs at WSU studying emerging and existing infectious diseases of wildlife occurring where wildlife and domestic animals may affect one another.
Elk Hoof Disease Research Fund
The principal of this fund shall be used to support the College of Veterinary Medicine's elk hoof disease research and outreach program.