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.
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This past April marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Rachel Carson. And while I certainly bemoan her absence and miss her Silent Spring voice, I mourn more for the fact that her life’s work and sacrifice on our behalf has apparently taught many of us little or nothing. Exhibit “A” in this thesis is the list of herbicides contained in a 2012 private forestry spraying application for a 3,416 acre unit near the Willapa Headwaters in southwestern Washington (thank you, Jon Gosch).
Rachel’s story is a powerful one and too often repeated. Here’s how it goes: A systems thinker (in her case a marine biologist) noticing trends and problems in the natural world compiles evidence that establishes correlative links between a chemical or chemicals and a natural or human health issue and then brings it to the public’s attention. These are not “proofs” in the traditional scientific sense but rather concrete rationales for further investigation—in short these are the building blocks of testable hypotheses.
But once these building blocks form and become known, a storm of industry-led criticism always follows. We know the pattern: Credentials and motivations are questioned; industry scientists rush in to defend the safety of products; new brochures addressing criticisms are prepared; and those offering the hypotheses are quickly and roughly kicked to curb for being un-American, job-killers, communists or worse. In all of this we have to really wonder where the sin lies in raising legitimate and justifiable concerns. And when exactly did poisoning our wildlife and future generations become an American value?
Over the last several years through numerous blog posts and comments Cascadia Wildlands has been forwarding two important notions. The first is that state wildlife commissions (and therefore agencies) in the West are too beholding to resource-oriented industries such as ranching, timber, mining and energy interests at the expense of hunters, anglers and our ever-dwindling wildlife legacy.
And, at the same time, western wildlife commissions are too accepting of the ideas forwarded by some extreme hunting groups that increasingly reflect the views of these same resource-dependent industries such as increasing clearcuts, aggressive predator control, protection of public lands grazing and more road creation for access rather than hitting the conservation sweet spots of habitat restoration, wilderness preservation, road retirement and water quality improvement. In essence, both the commissions and these more trophy hunting-oriented groups have been quietly coopted by the very elements that do damage to the natural resources needed by all wildlife and fish.
The most recent and troubling example involves the issue of hoof rot in Washington State’s Roosevelt elk herds. No one knows for sure at this point what is causing the hoof rot in southwestern Washington, but there are a lot of candidates both of a direct and indirect nature. One hypothesis that was put forth recently is that there is some link between combinations of factors that could include herbicide use by the forest products industry and a bacterial infection known as leptospirosis. Leptospirosis often causes severe muscle pain in mammals which might explain the limping observed in these elk as well as the lack of hoof wear on the sore legs. Leptospirosis has been present in Washington for decades.
As a wildlife biologist who frequently looks at complex interactions, I can appreciate a scenario that includes multiple causes such as massive habitat changes and herbicide use that put elk in a vulnerable condition so they present the variety of symptoms we are observing with this hoof rot phenomenon. But the idea of this being driven by leptospirosis or via an herbicide link—either through decreased habitat quality or consumption effects—has been met with apparent resistance in spite of efforts by a retired public health researcher and an expert on leptospirosis detection, Dr. Boone Mora, and hunter Jon Gosch who has written two well-researched blog posts on the topic. In addition, farrier Krystal Davies has also made a rather cogent argument for this being laminitis associated with or driven by herbicides.
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.