Hunters have been turning up elk with deformed hooves in southwest Washington for nearly 10 years. In the past six years or so, the numbers of those reports have increased. The first reports of elk hoof deformities in Oregon were reported this summer,The Oregonian reported.
This week the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced an online reporting system to make it easier for hunters to report elk with deformed hooves, so that the department can track the deformities in northwestern Oregon. The online form also requests that the hunter take pictures of the hooves, wrap them in plastic bags and store them in a cool place for further examination later.
For many years, the cause of the elk hoof deformities was a mystery. Today the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife believes that treponemes, spiral-shaped bacteria, likely cause the disease, according to the article in The Oregonian. Livestock have a similar disease, the article says.
In February, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission collared 11 elk for a study in north-central Nebraska. There are a few more details in this brief KOLN-TV report.
A new elk study in Montana got more coverage. There, 45 cow and 20 bull elk were fitted with tracking collars. Five of those were traditional radio collars, the rest were GPS collars. The two year study will investigate elk movement patterns and food. Read about it in the Ravalli Republic.
In Wyoming, the concern is the potential to spread of chronic wasting disease at the 22 artificial feeding stations run by the state and one at the National Elk Refuge. Read the opinion piece in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, here.
An opinion piece that is getting a lot of buzz ran in the New York Times recently. It says that wolves did not fix the Yellowstone ecosystem by preying on elk and allowing aspen to grow. No, the article says, the Yellowstone ecosystem is broken, and mere wolves can’t fix it. Read the article in the New York Times, here.
Photo of bull elk courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service
Outbreaks of blue-green algae are a growing plague across the country. Pollution plays a role, by providing nutrients (the pollution is typically fertilizer, but also detergents containing phosphates) that allow the algae (which isn’t really algae, but a photosynthetic bacteria — read more here) to grow to unnatural levels.
The toxins in blue-green algae can kill animals such as dogs or cattle that drink the water. Children are at higher risk from blue-green algae toxins than adults for the same reason; they are more likely to drink water while swimming. Hot weather and still lakes or ponds make things worse, leading some states to produce regular reports on where blue-green algae is found.
A mysterious die-off of 100 elk in New Mexico appears to have been caused by blue-green algae, an article in the Southwest Farm Press reports. Biologists from the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish considered many common causes of elk death, including epizootic hemorrhagic disease, anthrax and lightning.
A search of nearby water sources found blue-green algae in fiberglass water tanks in the area where the elk died, but not in ceramic water tanks in the same area. Just another possibility to consider when you are faced with an unexplained wildlife die-off.
In Nebraska, the state veterinarian is saying that cattle in the state are getting EHD, which again is considered to be a rare occurrence. He is seeking more information from cattle owners whose animals are experiencing EHD symptoms (which are virtually identical to bluetongue symptoms, which is common in cattle). Read the press release here.
Finally, in Texas, officials had set up a containment zone when chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in deer on the border with New Mexico. However, the latest news from the San Angelo Standard-Times says that the new rules will be delayed until the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission on November 7-8. According to the Austin Statesman, that’s after the archery season and a few days after the start of the standard deer season.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced surveys of bighorn, pronghorn and elk, and Washington State is examining the health of its elk herd.
A Colorado Division of Wildlife press release describes the bighorn and elk surveys as major research projects. The aim of the elk study is to get a better idea of the population and to find elk migration patterns. The bighorn study will investigate the decline of one of the three populations of sheep in the survey area.
The pronghorn study will investigate why fawn survival is so low in a population introduced into western Colorado about 10 years ago, another Division of Wildlife press release says. In related news, on March 1, 74 pronghorns were released to supplement a population in the Gunnison Basin.
Biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are examining elk organs and teeth submitted by hunters to determine the health of the herd, says an article in the Eugene Register-Guard. The teeth were used to determine the age of each animal. The organs are examined for fat, the article says. There’s a formula that converts the amount of fat observed on the organs to a percentage of fat on-the-hoof.
The fatter the better, since fat reserves are needed to get through the winter.
Photo: A pronghorn antelope is release March 1, 2012, by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The pronghorn was captured in Limon earlier in the day and released near Delta to supplement a small herd in that area. Photo: Colorado Parks and Wildlife
The elk population in some areas of Montana is being reduced by the abuse of disabled-hunter permits, which allow the holders to take cow elk, says the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission chairman in a recent Associated Press article.
Look for the quote buried in the story’s seventh paragraph. This is mostly a story about the abuse of the permits, sort of a healthy people parking in handicapped spots story of outrage, but with disabled-hunter permits in place of the convenient parking space.
According to the article, the abused loopholes seem to be the ability walk 600 yards carrying 15 pounds and the ability to carry 25 pounds. Lots of people who are just out of shape, and not handicapped at all, can’t do these things and can get a doctor’s note to prove it.
Rocky Mountain National Park was the site of a study of the effectiveness of GonaCon, a wildlife contraceptive in elk. The park has quite an elk problem. With no predators to worry about, the elk eat, wander through nearby Estes Park, stroll the golf course, eat some more, and make lots of baby elk. They have altered the park’s ecosystem by not allowing willows and aspens to grow.
Culling is the foundation of the park’s plan to reduce the herd, but of course, that bothers some people. A lot. This excellent story in New West has all the details on the elk in the park and the GonaCon study.