SACRAMENTO (AP) – California’s first cases of elk hoof disease have been discovered in two animals in a herd of Roosevelt elk that live in Del Norte County, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

The painful and potentially crippling disease causes deformed and overgrown hooves that can cause elk to limp, become lame and even die, the department said Thursday. Elk with severe cases may be unable to graze, fight off other infections or escape predators.

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The disease was first discovered in elk in Washington state in the 1990s and has since been documented in Oregon and Idaho.

The California cases were confirmed by scientists at Washington State University.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife said the disease is highly infectious among elk but there’s no evidence it affects humans.

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Hunters, however, were urged to use safe hygiene practices while processing, cooking and consuming meat from elk that have signs of deformed or damaged hooves.

The formal name of the disease, treponeme-associated hoof disease, or TAHD, comes from an associated bacterium.

California is home to Rocky Mountain elk, Roosevelt elk and tule elk.

Hunters are urged to send hoof samples to the state, and anyone who observes an elk that is limping, lame or has abnormal hooves can report it on an agency disease and mortality website.

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press.