HOOK AND FUR
By Bob Brown
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is planning to conduct a survey of southwest Washington elk this summer to assess the geographic spread of hoof disease and how it is affecting area elk.
Special attention will be given to the St. Helens and Willapa Hills herds. The department also announced any elk with severe symptoms of hoof rot and clearly suffering from the effects of the disease will be euthanized. To minimize the spread of the disease, wildlife managers are proposing a new hunting regulation that would require hunters to leave hooves on site of any elk taken in the effected area.
WDFW first became aware of hoof problems on elk in the late 1980d when hunters in southwestern Washington started reporting some elk had deformed hoofs. Since 2008, the department has received increasing reports of elk with misshapen hoofs in the Cowlitz River Basin, Pacific, Lewis, Grays Harbor, Clark and Wahkiakum counties, home ranges of the St. Helens and Willapa Hills elk herds. Analysis of affected hooves indicated the condition is caused by a bacterial disease similar to one found in livestock and transmitted through wet soil found throughout the lowlands of southern western Washington.
Test results of diseased hooves sent to five diagnostic laboratories point to treponeme bacteria linked to contagious ovine digital dermatitis found in domestic sheep and cattle. A panel of 16 veterinarians and researchers was formed by the WDFW to review the tests results supported the findings.
First reported in Italy in 1974, digital dermatitis now occurs in livestock throughout the U.S. and other countries, but has never been documented in elk and other wildlife.
Nate Pamplin, director of WDFW’s Wildlife Program, said the disease limits the department’s management options, because there is no vaccine for the disease and no proven options for treating it in the field.
“At this point, we don’t know whether we can contain this disease, but we do know its affects on animals and its impacts. Putting severely crippled animals out of their misery is the right thing to do,” Pamplin said.
Pamplin also said hoof disease in one of a number of illnesses affecting wildlife throughout the nation that are not curable. Chronic wasting disease, epizootic hemorrhagic disease and tuberculosis all take their toll on elk and deer each year in other states.
Dr. Kristen Mansfield, the department’s epidemiologist, said there is no evidence the bacteria is harmful to humans, and tests have shown the disease does not affect the animal’s meat or organs, but treating infected animals has posed a real challenge for the livestock industry for nearly 30 years. Some livestock producers bathe the hooves of infected sheep and cattle in an antibiotic solution, but many become reinfected and are ultimately shipped to market. In any case, daily footbaths are not a realistic solution when dealing with thousands of free-roaming elk.
Next winter, the department will capture and fit elk with radio collars to determine how the disease is affecting area elk populations, survival rates and calving.
• Bonneville Pool boat anglers have been averaging a legal sturgeon kept per every seven rods while bank anglers averaged one per every 19.5 rods. Boat anglers have also been catching some legals in The Dalles Pool.
During the same week of June 16-22, samplings taken on the lower Columbia River of 1,394 salmon anglers (including 207 boats) had 185 adult and 11 jack summer chinook, 81 steelhead, and 21 sockeye. Over 7,000 sockeye a day have been passing over Bonneville Dam. According to projections, the sockeye run is likely to be 347,100 fish which is twice the 2004-13 average.
Adult chinook and sockeye may be retained through June 30.
• The Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery continues to attract anglers who want to earn a few bucks catching those salmon and steelhead smolt eating fish. Samplings last week showed The Dalles, Boyer Park and Washougal were the hot spots with 2,350, 1,590 and 682 pikeminnows caught, respectfivey. A total of 9,678 pikes were caught in the Columbia and Snake rivers last week with seven tagged fish worth $500 each also in the catch.
• Joe Hymer, a fish biologist with the WDFW, reported that during June 16- 22, 224 spring chinook, 134 jacks, 50 mini-jacks, and 187 summer steelhead were recovered at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery. Sampling checks of 16 boat anglers counted four spring chinook, one jack spring chinook, and 14 summer steelhead kept. Bank anglers caught and kept eight chinook, three jack chinook, and five summer steelhead. Two adult chinook were released.
• Lowland lake fishing has been generally good. Karen Glaser of Barrier Dam Campground reported some nice trout are being caught near the dam on Riffe and at the other end of the lake. Trout have also been biting well in Mayfield and Mineral has been producing limits of trout and a few browns. Tanwax has been kicking out some smallmouth bass weighing up to 2.5 pounds. It was reported Senko worms in green pumpkin has been the ticket.
Bob Brown is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org