CHEHALIS, Wash. -- Bill Jones thought he had seen it all in his 44 years of hunting in the Mount St. Helens foothills, but he was not prepared for what he saw last weekend.

My hands were shaking so bad I could hardly hold the camera, said Jones. Everyone I saw had it.

What they had was hoof rot. The mysterious disease has shown up sporadically in other Western Washington elk herds, but not like this.

Dave Ware, manager of the State Fish & Wildlife s Game Division, said he saw Jones video and agrees it s bad news. He said the state is preparing a conference call with international experts on hoof rot to see in anything can be done.

But Ware warns, even though they have samples, they don t know what strain of the disease they are dealing with. And even when they to, treating wild herds is extremely difficult. He said in past cases, many inflicted animals die, but the disease seems to run its course and fade away.

Jones hopes it s the disease and not the whole Mount St. Helens herd that fades away.

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