PULLMAN — Researchers at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine have acquired the program’s first captive elk, which will be part of a herd used to investigate elk hoof disease.
Elk S19, also known as Salix, was bottle raised by a licensed rehabilitation specialist after being orphaned near Mount Rainier. According to a news release from the college, the 5-month-old bull calf was kept in isolation and determined to be healthy following an examination.
The university is constructing a $1.2 million elk hoof disease research center on its Pullman campus. The ailment first sprang up in southwestern Washington and has since spread eastward. It has been detected in eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and in north central Idaho, near White Bird.
Known officially as treponeme-associated hoof disease, the mysterious ailment causes lesions on elks’ hooves that can progress to abnormal growths. It is not always fatal, but impairs afflicted elk, making it harder for them to move, find food and escape predators.
In 2017, the Washington Legislature tapped the university to lead efforts to find the cause of the disease and the best way to halt its spread. Legislators allocated $3 million for the project over a two-year period. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation recently contributed $100,000 to the program.