Elk NetworkWildlife Veterinarian Chosen to Lead Washington Hoof Rot Research

Conservation | June 15, 2018

After a lengthy search, the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine found a leader to direct work focused on Washington’s hoof rot research. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has awarded grant funding for hoof rot research over the years. Below is a news release issued by Washington State University.

WSU College of Veterinary Medicine hires elk hoof disease research leader

PULLMAN, Wash.—Margaret Wild, since 2000 the chief wildlife veterinarian for the National Park Service, has been selected to lead Washington’s elk hoof disease research efforts.

Dr. Wild will assume her duties in the Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Pathology at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Pullman on August 1.

“A year ago recognizing that the state’s elk were suffering, the Washington legislature designated WSU’s veterinary college to lead the research effort for this devastating disease,” explained Dean Bryan Slinker.  “Our first big task was to find the best qualified person to head up our efforts.  Landing a person with Dr. Wild’s expertise and experience, especially with elk, greatly exceeded our expectations and is a true win for the state and those who care about elk.”

Dr. Wild says she is excited to take on the challenge in a species she admires.

“One of my first jobs in wildlife research involved elk and I have enjoyed working with them through much of my career.  It is very rare in wildlife disease research to see a state like Washington both identify a significant problem and then generously fund a research effort to apply the best science to seek a resolution.  I can’t wait to tackle TAHD .

“Initially, I want to do two things in Washington regarding TAHD.  I will travel to the affected areas to see the problem first hand and listen to the people most affected by having to see elk suffering with this painful, often fatal, lameness.  At the same time, I will review all of the excellent research conducted by my colleagues at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and elsewhere so I can determine the path forward as quickly as possible.”

Dr. Wild currently serves as the national wildlife health lead and supervisor for the Wildlife Health Branch of NPS from Fort Collins, Colo. She provides technical assistance for animal health and welfare issues nationwide and supervises 10 professional and support staff.

A 1990 graduate of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Wild went on to earn a Ph.D. degree in zoology in 2002 from the same university.  She is well-known among wildlife biologists and researchers nationwide.  She authored or co-authored more than 50 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals.  Among the species she has conducted research with are elk, deer, bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, Canada lynx, and black-footed ferrets.

Most recently, she has been intimately involved in chronic wasting disease research efforts, the wildlife form of mad cow disease affecting deer and elk in many states.

TAHD is an emerging infectious disease of wild elk populations in the Pacific Northwest. The number of elk with deformed, broken, or missing hooves has increased dramatically in the Pacific Northwest. Although TAHD is very likely multifactorial, the disease is strongly associated with Treponeme bacteria, known to cause a similar digital dermatitis in cattle, sheep and goats.

(Photo source: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife)