Elk hoof disease: Leave it up to the wolves?

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Maybe Eastern Washington has a solution to the hoof disease plaguing elk in southwestern Washington – wolves.

When Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials announced last week that they were planning to euthanize elk with severe symptoms of the painful hoof deformity to put them out of their misery, some sportsmen asked if they could get special permits so the meat could be salvaged.

But who could do the job better than a pack of gray wolves?

The Spokesman-Review posed the question to Game Division manager Dave Ware: “Why not translocate wolves to the Mount St. Helens area to do the job naturally? This would kill two birds with one stone by eliminating the sickest of the elk while speeding the outlined recovery of wolves in the state.”

Ware answered, “As described in the Wolf Conservation and Management Plan, such an endeavor would require the Department to go through the State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA) process.

“The Department is not prepared to go through what would likely be a very contentious process at this point, because we are pretty sure that wolves will get into the south Cascades fairly soon.

“We have had good evidence (tracks and photographs) that wolves have at least explored areas south of I-90 clear to the Oregon border. We just haven’t documented them establishing territories or breeding.”