About Treponeme-Associated Hoof Disease in Elk

Treponeme-Associated Hoof Disease (TAHD) in elk is associated with a spirochete bacterium, Treponema spp.
Commonly Affected Species:
Signs Of Disease
Animals affected by TAHD may be deficient in trace minerals like copper and/or selenium. The disease affects males and females of all age cohorts. Affected elk of all ages are lame with various degrees of deformed to elongated hooves, or with broken or missing hooves.
Where is Disease Found?
TAHD in elk is a relatively new condition in elk. Elk with hoof problems were first recognized in southwestern Washington in about 2000 with a dramatic increase in the number of affected animals reported in 2008. Since 2008, extensive surveillance by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has confirmed TAHD in elk in 14 counties in western Washington with scattered but unconfirmed cases in eastern Washington. TAHD was found in elk in Oregon in 2014 in an initial cluster in northwest Oregon. Since then, confirmed cases have been found in several areas of western Oregon with scattered unconfirmed cases in eastern Oregon. In December 2018, an adult female elk killed by a hunter near White Bird, Idaho in GMU 14 was found to have obvious foot abnormalities. The lower leg was submitted for diagnostic testing and TAHD was confirmed in this animal.
How Can I Protect Myself?
This disease affects the feet and hooves of elk but generally does not involve spread of the bacteria in the rest of the body. Individuals should wear rubber or latex gloves and refrain from eating or drinking while handling affected animals or carcasses.
Samples to Collect
If there is concern about this condition, contact a conservation officer or an Idaho Department of Fish and Game Regional Office. Appropriate samples can be collected for testing if deemed necessary. Photographs of affected animals and their lower limbs can be helpful in identifying animals with TAHD.
Can I Eat The Meat?
There is no known human health risk from this disease.
What is IDFG doing to help manage this disease?:

Management of TAHD is difficult as information about transmission, reservoirs and population impacts are limited. Washington has culled elk for humane reasons, diagnostic efforts, and in an attempt to prevent establishment of TAHD in Klickitat County.  Oregon has done similar humane removals and diagnostic efforts but has not attempted control efforts to date.

IDFG will be implementing an on-line reporting system to document occurrence of lame elk and elk with abnormal hooves.  The data will be used to conduct field investigations where clusters of cases appear and to consider management actions to prevent further spread of the disease.