A mysterious hoof disease has been decimating elk herds in southwest Washington for more than a decade. As the disease spreads into eastern Washington, Oregon and Idaho, Washington State University (WSU) prepares to open a $1.2 million research center devoted to studying how the disease is caused and transmitted.
After a long and controversial investigation, researchers with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) associated hoof disease with bacteria known as treponemes. However, a vocal coalition of hunters, conservationists and concerned citizens have come to believe that the root cause is a toxic brew of chemicals routinely sprayed by industrial timber companies.
As WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine takes the reins of this high-stakes investigation, will researchers finally study the public’s longstanding hypothesis? Or will more delays and inaction continue to fuel accusations that powerful timber and chemical interests have overwhelmed the possibility of an honest investigation into the true cause of elk hoof disease?
On July 14th, my discussion about elk hoof disease with John Kruse, host of Northwestern Outdoors Radio, will replay on 60+ stations throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Originally airing last fall, the segment was recently awarded first place in the conservation/nature category by the Outdoor Writers Association of America. The national organization met in June for its 91st annual conference in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Thanks again to John Kruse for tracking this important issue. Your listeners are lucky to have such a strong outdoors advocate.
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.
A mysterious hoof disease is steadily exterminating elk herds throughout Washington and Oregon, and many thousands of hunters, conservationists, and concerned citizens continue to believe that forestry herbicides are causing this horrendous epidemic.
On November 4th, I will join John Kruse, host of Northwestern Outdoors Radio, to explain why the public’s persistent herbicide theory may prove correct after all. The show will air on 60+ stations throughout Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Many thanks to John Kruse for tracking this important issue. Your listeners are lucky to have such a strong outdoors advocate.
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.