State wildlife managers are asking hunters, anglers, campers and others planning to spend time in the Cascade Mountains this fall to report any elk they encounter and pay close attention to see if any walk with a limp.
The volunteer project is part of a broad-based effort by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to gauge the distribution of a debilitating bacterial hoof disease that has affected an increasing number elk in the lowland areas of southwest Washington in recent years.
Treponeme-associated hoof disease in elk is infectious, and can be spread among elk through exposure to the bacteria that is associated with the disease. The bacteria persist in soil, especially in wet, muddy conditions.
Brooke George, project coordinator for WDFW, said the new reporting system is designed to build on current information about where elk are seen in the Washington Cascades and to closely track the disease if it is found in new areas.
“Our goal is to monitor the outer edges of where the disease occurs, so we can respond to changes in its distribution more quickly,” George said. “We appreciate any help people can give us in this effort.”
Those interested in contributing to the project can pick up maps, reporting forms and instructions on how to fill them out at National Forest Service offices and visitor centers throughout the Washington Cascades. Participants can also report their observations online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/hoof_disease.