SALEM – Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials today reminded successful deer and elk hunters to bring their animals through ODFW check stations as part of the state’s effort to monitor for Chronic Wasting Disease.

While the disease has not been found in Oregon wildlife to date, ODFW scientists note that CWD is spreading and now infects deer and elk in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. CWD is an untreatable, always fatal neurological disease of deer and elk. It was confirmed for the first time in a moose in Colorado Sept. 29.

Chronic wasting disease is part of a unique family of chronic neurologic diseases called prion diseases or transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. The disease was recognized more than 30 years ago as a syndrome in a state wildlife research facility in Colorado. Its natural hosts include mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and now moose. Sheep and cattle have not been found to be naturally susceptible to CWD. Although similar to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or “Mad Cow Disease,” CWD is a disease of the deer family and is not infective or transmissible to people. More information is available on p. 53 of the 2005 Oregon big game hunting regulations.

Participation at central and eastern Oregon deer check stations last weekend was reportedly good. Biologists checked 128 mule deer during the Oct. 1-3 firearm deer opener. Samples gathered from hunter-harvested deer will be sent to laboratories for testing.

Eastern Oregon bull elk hunters are reminded of check stations that will be open Oct. 29-30 east of Prineville on US Highway 26 and in LaGrande. Hunters who plan to take their animals to taxidermy are advised to cape their deer to the base of the head and inform check station workers upon arrival.

Sampling of black-tailed deer continues throughout western Oregon, where hunters are encouraged to bring their harvested deer to any ODFW field office.

“We are asking hunters to bring their deer and elk carcasses to biological check stations or their nearest ODFW office to be sampled for chronic wasting disease,” said Colin Gillin, ODFW state wildlife veterinarian. “ODFW District Wildlife Biologists also will be collecting samples during their field hunter checks.”

Oregon deer and elk hunters are reminded of some simple precautions to protect them from exposure to animal diseases. Hunters should not shoot animals that appear sick. All meat should be trimmed to remove fat, and only red meat that has been thoroughly cooked should be consumed.

CWD is present in wild populations of deer and elk, and occurs in farmed deer and elk maintained for agricultural purposes. CWD currently is found in Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and Utah, as well as the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Observations of infected deer and elk in captivity indicate that the disease is highly contagious. However, the exact mechanism of transmission has not been identified. CWD likely exits the animal in saliva or feces and then re-infects susceptible deer and elk by direct contact between animals or by environmental contamination.

Another concern and avenue for the introduction of CWD into the state is via hunter-harvested deer and elk from states or provinces that have CWD-infected animals. Precautionary measures taken to protect Oregon ’s wildlife from CWD and keep the disease from entering Oregon include a ban on deer and elk carcass parts containing central nervous system tissue from animals killed in states or provinces with a documented case of CWD.

The following parts may be imported:

  • Meat cut and wrapped commercially or privately;

  • Meat that has been boned out;

  • Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached;

  • Hides and/or capes with no head attached;

  • Skull plates with antlers attached that have been cleaned of all meat and brain tissue (velvet antlers are allowed);

  • Antlers with no tissue attached (velvet antlers are allowed);

  • Upper canine teeth (buglers, whistlers and ivories); and

  • Finished taxidermy heads.

Hunters traveling to other states or Canada are advised to thoroughly read local hunting regulations to be sure they comply with that state or Province’s requirements for evidence of sex, transport, and tagging.

Voluntary check stations will be manned from dawn to dusk and signs will be located along the highway to identify check station locations. The locations and dates of voluntary CWD check stations where hunters may bring carcasses to be sampled for chronic wasting disease are:

  • Prineville check station: Oct. 29-30, located at the Prineville weigh station, just east of Prineville on US Highway 26.
  • LaGrande Region check station: Oct. 29-30, located at the Animal Health Center, 10302 Oregon Highway 82 in Island City.

Additional check stations may be set up at other locations throughout the course of hunting seasons. ODFW will provide additional notifications as check stations are opened.

For more information on CWD or ODFW check stations, call ODFW biologist Don Whittaker at 503-947-6300, or ODFW wildlife veterinarian Colin Gillin at 541-757-4186.