Wahkiakum County commissioners have given guarded support to a bill in the legislature to expand a study of elk hoof root disease.
Several years ago, elk with deformed hooves began appearing in southwest Washington herds. Commissioners have pressed the state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to identify and eradicate the disease. The department has formed a public interest working group, and its biologists have said the cause is treponema bacteria.
However, commissioners, relying on input from Skamokawa resident Boone Mora, a retired doctor and health officer, have contended that the cause of the disease is leptospira bacteria.
The current legislation, Senate Bill 5474, would require WDFW to request recommendations from the state veterinarian and the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine to prevent the disease from being transmitted to domestic animals.
The bill would require the department to maintain the public interest working group as a forum to advise on the disease. The bill also prohibits transport of diseased elk from one region to another, and it authorizes department personnel to humanely euthanize severely suffering diseased elk.
In the past two weeks, commissioners have expressed limited support for the bill.
They still maintain that leptospira cause the disease, and offer comments from Dr. Mora citing research supporting the conclusion.
They support the bill, hoping the veterinary college will conduct thorough research.
"We feel that there are a number of issues that are still not being addressed," they said in a letter to legislators and commissioners from Clark, Cowlitz, Lewis and Pacific counties. "We feel that additional studies are needed to identify the cause, cure and treatment of this disease, including the health and public safety of our citizens and the long range effect of the disease on our individual counties, southwestern Washington, and the state as a whole."
"We're hoping for some young, energetic students who will move on this," Commissioner Dan Cothren said Tuesday.
Commissioners will be watching the process, he added.
"You'll be held accountable," he said.