The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Cothren, Mora meet director of WSU elk hoof rot research


October 25, 2018

Wahkiakum County Commissioner Dan Cothren and Dr. Boone Mora, a retired public health officer living in Skamokawa, traveled to Toutle last week to meet Dr. Margaret Wild, who has been selected to lead Washington State University’s research into hoof rot disease in elk.

The disease causes hooves to grow abnormally and become infected. Eventually, the animal will become too lame to forage and will die.

Efforts by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to identify and address the disease have had mixed results, and the state legislature in 2017 authorized WSU to take the lead in addressing the disease.

After a nationwide recruitment effort, the university selected Dr. Margaret Wild to lead the project. She has served as chief wildlife veterinarian for the US National Park Service since 2000 and has conducted research on elk.

When she arrived at WSU in August, Dr. Wild said she wanted to “travel to the affected areas to see the problem first hand and listen to the people most affected by having to see elk suffering with this painful, often fatal, lameness.”

And on Tuesday she met with Cothren, Cowlitz County officials and people like Dr. Mora who live in areas frequented by elk.

Cothren, who has been critical of WDFW’s efforts, said he was pleasantly surprised by the meeting with Dr. Wild.

“I am happy with what I’m hearing from her,” he said Tuesday. “We had good a discussion. She was asking us what we see.”

Cothren, a forest security officer and avid hunter, said what he sees is a severe decline in the number of elk in Wahkiakum County and the lower Columbia region.

The disease has spread to the east side of the Cascade Mountains, and WSU plans to trap and study some infected animals there.

Cothren added that Dr. Mora, who believes the disease is caused by a different bacteria than that identified by WDFW, was able to spend a long time after the meeting explaining his conclusions with Dr. Wild.

Dr. Mora believes the disease is caused by leptospira bacteria, and that a vaccine could be developed and sprayed on grazing ground as a cure, similar to what is done for cattle.

WDFW has identified the disease as Treponeme Associated Hoof Disease.


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