Some may protest my use of the word toxic, but what else should one call a chemical which has been proven to drastically weaken immune systems, alter an amphibian’s gender, mutate rats’ genes for generations, and which was banned by the European Union due to “ubiquitous and unpreventable water contamination?”
The toxic herbicide whose destructive capabilities I’ve just described is known as atrazine, and it is widely sprayed by our state’s timber industry.
We also shouldn’t hesitate calling glyphosate or 2,4-D toxic herbicides. Glyphosate (the main ingredient in Roundup) is known to pollute waterways, strip soils of vital nutrients, and is in the process of being banned by California and the EU. It was also declared “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization in 2015.
Then there’s 2,4-D, best known as half of the infamous Agent Orange defoliant used during the Vietnam War as part of our country’s herbicidal warfare program. 2,4-D is commonly sprayed in forestry and food production settings, and has been linked to endocrine disruption, thyroid disorders, birth defects and cancer.
I wish my family was getting ready to go elk hunting. I wish we were shopping for supplies, setting up our camp along the Coweeman River, and maybe even doing some scouting on the weekends.
Instead, my dad, my uncle, my brother and the rest of our hunting party are boycotting our Department of Fish and Wildlife and Weyerhaeuser for the fourth consecutive year.
It all began when a pitifully unsuccessful black powder rifle season prompted my family to start attending meetings and asking tough questions about why there were so few healthy elk. What we learned about elk hoof disease was sad, but what we’ve learned about the collusion between certain government agencies and the timber and chemical industries has been truly disturbing.
“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. A popular government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both.”
For months, WDFW officials have been claiming the mysterious elk hoof disease ravaging the herds of southwest Washington is likely caused by treponema bacteria. At a public meeting in Longview on March 27, WDFW Director Phil Anderson told the nearly 300 citizens in attendance that regarding treponema, “We’ve got some pretty strong evidence and we’ll figure out whether we’re 99% sure or 90% sure here pretty soon.”
Now that percentage of certainty hovers somewhere between slim and none.
On June 3rd, numerous members of WDFW’s highly vaunted technical advisory group expressed serious doubts that treponema could be the root cause of elk hoof disease. Though the bacteria do appear to be involved, the unmistakable consensus was that treponemes are secondary or tertiary to other, more systemic factors.
“[Treponemes] are possibly playing a role, but they’re not the entirety,” said Jennifer Wilson, a research microbiologist with the USDA.
“I buy the fact that it’s acting like a novel introduced disease. I’m just saying this treponema data does not support that,” said Tom Besser, a specialist in Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at WSU.
“I also have a little bit of a concern because the treponema hypothesis still requires an initiating event… Until you figure out what that triggering event was you’re not going to be able to really understand the disease,” said Dr. Anne Fairbrother, an Ecotoxicologist with Exponent Engineering and Scientific Consulting.
“You’re mentioning lots of different bacteria. That’s one piece of the puzzle… but there are other things that seem to be missing in the puzzle. Big pieces. The big pieces are the environmental factors and why this particular region and not other regions,” said Dale Moore, an expert in preventive veterinary medicine at WSU.
Now, more than 20 years since the onset of elk hoof disease, and nearly 5 years since they began “actively” investigating this condition, WDFW is left without a single viable working hypothesis. Despite all of this, WDFW officials still insist they are giving it their best effort.
Asked to weigh in on the matter, wildlife activist Bruce Barnes said, “They’re playing the public for a bunch of fools.”
Herbicides Linked to Chemically Induced Endocrinopathic Laminitis in Elk
Authored by Krystal Davies
I believe I understand why the elk in southwest Washington are being affected by the mysterious hoof disease, namely hoof rot. I have credible evidence and can provide a plausible diagnosis, source of disease, a detailed route and manifestation of the pathogen, as well as a cure. My findings also link Leptospirosis, Treponema Pallidum, numerous other bacterial infections, and the use of pesticides and herbicides into one, highly interconnected, evidence based theory. The hepatic selenium and copper deficiencies discovered by Washington State University will also play an important role in returning the elk to a healthy state. My findings suggest that all of the current theories presented play an important role in the health of our local elk herds.
First, a little about myself. I am a farrier and have been studying equine hooves for over a decade. I specialize in the treatment and prevention of pathologies, including laminitis. Currently my efforts are being steered toward the local elk. But this runs deeper and a little more personal for me and my family. I have been controlling for known causes of hoof diseases in my own personal horses. However, since moving my little herd to Mt. Pleasant, in Cowlitz County, I’ve noticed a steady decline in their hoof health. They are showing subclinical signs of laminitis. This has led me to dig deeper into the situation and eventually brought me to research the local elk’s mysterious hoof disease. In my opinion the elk are being affected by the same thing as my horses as the signs and symptoms are strikingly identical to laminitis.
My family has hunted the forests of southwest Washington for more than sixty years and never before have they observed such a scarcity of wildlife. Twenty years ago my dad and uncle remember seeing two or three big elk herds a day. Now we’re lucky to see two or three individuals a day. Depressingly, this past fall marked the first time in three decades that our entire hunting party failed to harvest a single elk from the Coweeman unit. I later learned that the Coweeman elk population has dropped by seventy percent in recent years.
Something is afoot in our local forests, and I’m convinced that the epidemic of hoof disease currently ravaging the elk population surrounding Mount St. Helens is only the alarm. Everyone in my hunting party now believes that the herbicides Weyerhaeuser and other private timber companies are spraying on new growth habitats is one of the chief causes of our wildlife shortage which includes deer, grouse and just about every other animal out there. After several years of diminishing returns, I (like many others) have been on a path of inquiry to understand just what is happening in our forests, and so far the insights have been disturbing.