From elk hoof disease to white-nose syndrome in bats, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife works to understand and respond to diseases that affect the health of wildlife in our state. You can help by reporting observations of dead or sick/injured animals.
You can also help by taking steps to prevent the spread of these illnesses between wildlife or to humans. While most diseases are not easily transmissible from wildlife to people, the following precautions are recommended:
- Whenever possible, avoid handling wildlife found sick or dead of unknown causes.
- If sick or dead wildlife must be handled (for example to dispose of in the trash), wear disposable gloves; alternatively, a plastic bag inverted over your hand can be used to pick up small carcasses.
- Wear disposable gloves when cleaning bird feeders.
- Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol wipes immediately after handling sick or dead wildlife, or cleaning bird feeders.
- If you experience unexplained illness following contact with wildlife, contact your primary health care provider or local health department as a precaution.
For harvested or salvaged game, please see food safety guidelines for game meat.
To report a public safety issue, wildlife violation, or dangerous animal, please call our enforcement officers at 360-902-2936. If it is an emergency, call 911.
Elk hoof disease in Washington state
Reports of elk with deformed, broken, or missing hooves in southwest Washington have increased dramatically in the past decade. Here's what researchers are doing to better understand the issue, and how you can help.
Chronic Wasting Disease
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal illness of deer, elk, and moose. The disease is caused by mutated proteins which can be transmitted between animals through their saliva, urine, and potentially feces and bodily fluids.
Bat white-nose syndrome
White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats in eastern North America since 2006. Washington's first case of the disease was confirmed in March 2016 near North Bend in King County.
Avian influenza (bird flu)
Avian influenza, more commonly known as bird flu, is a viral illness found in birds. Wild birds can carry a number of bird flu viruses, but most strains do not seriously affect them.
Pneumonia in bighorn sheep
Pneumonia outbreaks have killed bighorn sheep in Washington for decades. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment or preventive vaccination for pneumonia in bighorn sheep.
West Nile virus
West Nile virus is a blood-borne disease, transmitted by mosquitoes, that was first reported in the U.S. in 1999.
Growths and abscesses on deer
You may occasionally see deer or other wildlife with growths or abscesses in Washington. Most are usually insignificant to the health of the animal and to humans.
Deer hemorrhagic diseases
Hemorrhagic diseases are common viral diseases of white-tailed deer.
Hair-loss syndrome in deer
Hair loss syndrome in black-tailed deer is caused by a heavy infestation of Eurasian lice, and was first reported in Washington in 1995.
Adenovirus Hemorrhagic Disease
Adenoviruses belong to a small group of viruses that can infect a variety of animals, both wild and domestic.
Salmonellosis in wild birds
Salmonellosis is a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria and transmitted through droppings and saliva when birds flock together in large numbers.
Snake fungal disease
Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) is a disease in snakes caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola. The incidents of SFD have steadily increased over the last few years, putting many snake species at risk.