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How widespread is the elk hoof rot and/or elk hoof deformation problem in Washington?
Elk with hoof disease have been observed in Southwest Washington since the mid-1990s. This problem is most apparent in the lower Cowlitz River Valley in game management units (GMUs) 504, 530, 520, and 550, although it has also been observed in GMUs 506 and 556.
Research on elk in SW Washington has shown the presence of the bacterium Dichelobacter nodosus. This bacterium is a common cause of hoof rot in domestic cattle and sheep. However, interviews with several large animal veterinarians who practice in the areas where affected elk have been observed have not revealed an increase in the incidence of hoof rot in domestic species.
As a standard precaution, WDFW recommends that hunters avoid harvesting wild animals that are obviously sick.
Hoof rot is generally limited to the feet of the elk, and the rest of the carcass is usually unaffected. As always, use your best judgment and nose to help you decide what to trim away and discard.
If the animal appears to be diseased throughout the entire body and none of the meat is suitable for consumption, contact your local WDFW Regional Office for advice and possibly a replacement tag.