Jon Gosch

Freelance Journalist and Author of If We Get There

From the Blog

Appearance on Horns and Hooks Radio

Discussing Elk Hoof Disease with Kelly, Rex and Colin



It was my great honor to be recently invited to share my insights into the issue of elk hoof disease with Horns and Hooks listeners throughout the Longview, Aberdeen and Olympia areas. Many thanks to Kelly Barnum, Rex Peterson and Colin Hamilton for having me on the show, but especially for continuing to shed light on this horrendous disease, as well as the way in which certain corporations and landowners appear to be controlling WDFW’s ineffectual response. I only hope that we were able to encourage a few more hunters and conservationists to ask WDFW the tough questions about what they plan to do to save our great elk herds of southwest Washington.

Click on the link below to listen to the entire podcast. And if you want to get right to the issue of elk hoof disease then skip ahead to minute 15:00.

Kayaking the Columbia

5 Days and 90 Miles Afloat the West's Mightiest River


The Columbia River Gorge is notorious for its wind, and as my kayak crashed into the trough-end of yet another formidable whitecap, it occurred to me that I wasn’t quite certain my dry hatch was watertight or that I would be able to right my vessel should it capsize along with a thousand dollars worth of gear. Inveterate fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants travelers, my girlfriend Logan and I had borrowed two $300 Costco kayaks from my mother and sister and we were overwhelmingly underprepared for a ninety-mile paddle down the final damless expanse of the West’s mightiest river. We didn’t have a map and like idiots we were wearing jeans and tennis shoes that were already saturating under our ponchos. We did have an emergency whistle though, not that anyone would have heard it.

The purpose of the trip was simple enough. Born and raised in the port town of Longview, I had been traveling up and down the river by car, bus and motorboat my whole life, always in some gas-powered hurry, and like a neighbor you’ve only ever shared a few passing pleasantries with, I didn’t really know the Columbia that well. Sure, I’d hauled some fish from it and could name its most prominent landmarks, but overall it was a stranger and that was a shame. I finally wanted to experience this magnificent waterway that coursed through my backyard, and as intimately as possible – to earn its acquaintance through five days of paddling and camping on its islands and beaches. We would put in the river just below the Columbia’s final dam, traveling through the famous Gorge, the industrial section around Portland, along cliffs, farms, pulp mills, nature reserves, and finally exiting the river again in Longview.

While it was only now that I’d mustered the gumption to properly introduce myself to the Columbia, it was something I’d been keen to do for many years. I’m not exactly sure when I first dreamt of the trip, but as a young reader of Huckleberry Finn I suspect it was early. And perhaps that book had some bearing on my lack of preparation. Sensible planning and high adventure do historically have a strong inverse relationship.

The foggy cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge

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Editor of Northwest Sportsman Magazine Supporting Herbicide Study

WDFW Requesting Public’s Reports Of Limping Elk In SW WA


Excerpt from Andy Walgamott’s recent post, followed by a link to the entire article:

WDFW continues to maintain that laboratory testing shows the hoof ailment is very similar to a “contagious bacterial infection in sheep,” but freelance Seattle journalist Jon Gosch has received some media attention for his dogged investigation and questions about whether possibly herbicides used on industrial forests might play a role.

Blogged Scott Sandsberry at the Yakima Herald-Republic recently:

Civic leaders in southwest Washington communities, as well as several members of the WDFW’s citizen panel working on the issue, are demanding what Gosch and some of his supporters have been saying for months: that those crippled elk be separated and studied until wildlife biologists can actually figure out once and for all what’s behind the disease.

That seems like a no-brainer to me. (That — “a no-brainer” — is also precisely how a member of that working panel described it to Gosch.)

Seems like a good idea to me as well.

Guest Column in the Longview Daily News

WDFW's Wrong Call on Hoof Rot

After my family’s unsuccessful hunting season this past fall I became curious about why there were so few elk in the woods of southwest Washington. The answer of course was the epidemic of hoof disease that is currently ravaging elk populations throughout the Pacific Northwest, and since then I have attended numerous meetings on the subject, written several articles, and probably parsed through more scientific papers than there are healthy elk left in Cowlitz County, where I was born.

Along the way I have learned a great deal about the dangers that herbicides and their adjuvants present to nearly every living organism, and like many hundreds of local citizens, I have come to believe that the forest chemicals routinely sprayed on industrial timber lands are at the root of “hoof rot.” The insights into true herbicide toxicity have been disturbing, but what has been especially maddening is that our Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) appears to be casting these concerns aside and discounting herbicides as a potential cause.

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Yakima Herald Outdoors Editor Praises Elk Investigation

Could Herbicides Be Causing Elk Hoof Rot?


By Scott Sandsberry / Outdoors Editor / Yakima Herald-Republic

Gadfly: gad-fly, n. 1) any of several large flies, as the horsefly, that bite livestock; 2) an annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism.

Jonathon Gosch is neither a horsefly nor annoying. But when it comes to the state’s increasingly widespread epidemic of hoof rot and other deformities and ailments among its elk population, it’s not a reach to call him a gadfly – in the best sense of the word.

While the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has tried in vain for years to get a handle on what’s debilitating the elk in southwest Washington and elsewhere, Gosch has become the horsefly nipping at the department’s heels, demanding accountability and answers.

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