KDWPT: 30 Kansas deer reported for foot rot disease in 2016

Shawnee County had deer reported for disease

The Topeka Capital-Journal

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism recently released information regarding the testing of area deer for a rare type of potentially fatal foot rot disease.

Shawnee County had one report of a sick or dead deer thought to be afflicted with hoof disease in 2016-17, according to a map provided by the KDWPT. The hardest hit counties were in the southeast portion of Kansas — namely Bourbon, Butler and Anderson. Bourbon had between five and eight reports, while Butler and Anderson had between three and four apiece.

Lyon County, which is south of Wabaunsee County, had two reports of hoof disease. Reports also were made farther out west in Decatur, Phillips and Russell counties. In all, 25 cases were reported to the KDWPT by the public, making 30 total cases of suspected hoof disease in Kansas.

Beginning in January, the KDWPT began shipping fresh hooves from deer thought to be afflicted with the disease to be studied at the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study, which is operated through the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Diagnostics showed the hoof disease story is more about trauma to the hooves with the onset of secondary bacterial infections,” Shane Hesting, wildlife disease coordinator for the KDWPT, said in an email. “The cause of the trauma is unknown. I hypothesize that several things are possibly causing the trauma, such as cut soybean stems at ground level, jagged frozen soil, barbed wire, locust thorns, stress fractures during fighting and chasing does, weakened bones due to poor physical condition (rut), etc.”

Hesting emphasized that the surge in reports of hoof disease in white-tailed deer can mostly be credited to increased awareness via social media posts and email blasts. He said the uptick in reporting may also be connected with the greater-than-normal amounts of rainfall the state saw during 2016. Parts of Shawnee County saw between 4 and 12 inches of precipitation more than average in 2016, according to the Midwestern Regional Climate Center. The averages are calculated based on annual precipitation measured between 1981 and 2010.

“Deer live with a plethora of bacterial species on a daily basis, and some of these bacterial species cause problems when injury and/or immunosuppression occurs, like we see when bucks are worn down from rutting,” Hesting said.

He said that some hooves had been damaged by hemorrhagic disease viruses during the summer months, which then progress to hoof infections in the fall and winter. He said bacterial species accumulate in the soil at deer feeders and other areas where deer congregate, and the thawing and freezing of soil at these spots often creates a jagged soil surface that can injure hooves.

Hesting added that this is another reason to limit the baiting and feeding of deer.

“In 2016, stressed and immunosuppressed post-rut animals in the population merged with an environment of wetter soil during a wetter-than-normal year, varying bacterial loads and other conditions leading to hoof infections,” Hesting said. “Even though hoof infections occur every year in Kansas, it is currently thought that these cases have not and will not affectthe overall deer population in the state.

“The current statewide average — based on 2016 distance sampling — of the Kansas deer herd is estimated to be approximately 636,000.”