It’s called treponeme associated hoof disease, TAHD or more simply Elk Hoof Disease. The disease or digital dermatitis was originally found exclusively in livestock and has plagued the industry for a number of years.
Fast forward to 2017 and the disease is now showing up in Washington’s elk populations for the first time, leaving wildlife officials with no choice but to attempt to stop the outbreak in its tracks, so to speak.
To help mitigate the spread of the disease, Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife first began requiring hunters to leave the hooves of elk taken during hunting seasons in 2015 and 2016. Applied exclusively to only a pair of Game Management Units, ahead of the upcoming 2017 season, the department has expanded this requirement.
Now hunters across six Game Management Units will be required to remove and leave behind the hooves of any elk harvested within those units.
In their effort to contain the disease, they encourage those who come across limping elk or hoof oddities to report their sightings. Research has shown that the disease has not shown any evidence of affecting humans and does not affect the organs or meat of affected animals.