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Some Arctic Canadian caribou diagnosed with hoof rot

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Hunters around Rankin Inlet, an Inuit hamlet on Kudlulik Peninsula in Nunavut, Canada, are concerned about caribou they've seen limping.

Some hunters have caught caribou which appear to have swelled-up hoofs.

Jack Kabvitok is the Chair of Hunters and Trappers organization in Rankin Inlet. Kabvitok says it appears most of the affected animals are cows with calves, and he’s encouraging hunters to kill them.

“Some hunters who have spotted them have said to kill them or to bury the carcass, because when you see a live animal suffering, you feel for them,” said Jack Kabvitok, chair of the Rankin Inlet Hunters and Trappers Organization. “It's not a pretty sight. I think it's better if we put them out of their misery.”

Nunavut government biologists believe it's a disease called hoof or foot rot, which usually affects weak and crippled caribou.

It's not uncommon, but it is a potential concern for the herd’s health. Estimates are that between 200 and 2,000 caribou could be affected.

Biologists say it's been a wet summer in Nunavut's Kivalliq region, and that may have helped the disease spread.

“What happens is these bacteria escape into these areas through the feces because the animals’ feet are always contacting the ground,” said Mitch Campbell, a biologist with the government of Nunavut. “The most likely places for a scratch of a caribou is on its feet. It tends to infect the feet first.”

Campbell says meat from the diseased caribou is safe to eat but should be cooked first.

He says the infected caribou were probably left behind during the fall migration of the Qamanirjuaq herd, which is estimated to have a population of 350,000.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.