ELK NEED YOUR HELP: Del Norte Elk Face New Disease and Increased Hunting

By
Friday, June 19th, 2020

EPIC Petitions for Hunt Moratorium in Light of New Threats

Supporters of North Coast elk, we need your help! On June 25, the Fish and Game Commission is set to hear a report from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife concerning a new disease threatening our North Coast Roosevelt elk. We need people like you to demand that the Fish and Game Commission support a petition filed by EPIC to place a moratorium on hunting until more is known about the disease. Please help by attending the virtual meeting on June 25 to speak for our elk! Instructions on how to participate are available from the Fish and Game Commission.

In early April 2020, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) discovered two cases of Treponeme-associated hoof disease (TAHD), a bacterial-associated syndrome causing severe lameness in elk. The consequences of the disease are severe: reduced fitness predisposes infected elk to a decreased probability of survival from wasting (chronic nutritional deficiency), predation, extreme weather, and other causes of death. In one infected herd in Washington, the disease, together with other threats like hunting, reduced the population of a herd by 35%. There is no cure for the disease. Our only chance is to slow or stop the spread of the disease and mitigate the effects in already infected herds.

Despite this novel threat, the California Fish and Game Commission never examined the risk posed by the disease before increasing hunting for the coming year because they were never told about the disease. Although the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (an agency distinct from the Fish and Game Commission) had knowledge of the disease, this critical information was not relayed to the Commission, depriving the Commission the ability to adapt to this new information. That TAHD was discovered in Del Norte should not come as a surprise, since its initial discovery in Washington State elk, wildlife professionals have documented the quick spread of the disease down the West Coast. While California should have seen it coming and prepared, we failed to do so. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife did not consider the disease in the environmental analysis required by law to authorize hunting of elk and the California Elk Management Plan never examined the threat posed by the disease.

In June, EPIC filed an emergency rulemaking petition with the California Fish and Game Commission asking for a temporary moratorium on hunting in the region. A moratorium would allow the Commission and the Department space to come up with a game plan to stop the spread of the disease and care for those elk already impacted. Absent this, we risk what has already been shown elsewhere: significant and sustained population declines in infected herds and rapid disease spread to elk elsewhere in the state.

Want to participate in the meeting on June 25? Click here for instructions on how to join!

Need talking points? Feel free to use the information below:

  • I support the emergency rulemaking petition from EPIC to issue a temporary moratorium on hunting in the Northcoast until the Department and Commission has a firmer plan on how to deal with this new threat.
  • Before approving increasing the number of elk tags, the Commission should have considered the new disease. Because information was not given to the Commission about the emergence of this disease prior to the April decision, the Commission was unable to shape the new elk tag quota to reflect this new threat. I ask that you revisit this decision immediately.
  • TAHD poses a new threat to elk that has not been considered under your environmental analysis documents for the California Elk Management Plan. We need to proceed cautiously until a more formalized analysis is completed to ensure that our elk are protected.
  • TAHD, together with other threats, like predation, extreme weather, and hunting, have been shown to cause significant population declines in elk populations in other states. I urge you to take great care with our public resources.