The California Department of Fish and Wildlife recently announced that Treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD), a bacterial-associated syndrome causing severe lameness in elk, has been discovered in elk in Del Norte County. TAHD is already present in elk in both Washington, Oregon and Idaho. From their experience, we understand that this disease is likely to cause significant disruptions to California’s elk.
There is no cure or effective treatment for wild populations. Lameness caused by TAHD has been found to impact up to 90% of elk in infected herds in Washington and is the likely cause of a population decline of 35%. Our only hope to minimize disease transfer and to mitigate impacts where present. In the coming months, EPIC will push the California Fish and Game Commission to promulgate new regulations to prevent disease spread. Oregon and Washington have put forward some regulations to limit disease spread, but these have obviously been insufficient as the disease has quickly spread from Washington south.
The discovery of the disease also calls into question planned expansion of elk hunting in the North Coast. In April, the Commission increased the number of elk tags issued, however, it is believed that the Commission was not aware of the disease at that time. Among the Commission’s charges is to consider whether the increased hunting will, together with likely population declines from TAHD, will cause a significant impact to local elk herds.