PORTLAND — The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday amended an emergency temporary rule dealing with the importation of deer and elk carcasses into Oregon.
The rule was approved in response to fears about the potential spread of chronic wasting disease into Oregon’s captive and wild herds of deer and elk. It banned the import of hunter-killed deer and elk carcasses except for boned-out, processed or quartered meat, hides and skull plates that had no part of the spinal column or brain attached, or finished taxidermy heads.
It also banned the import of all live deer, elk and related species except reindeer.
However, the rule brought with it unintended consequences for meat-processing plants and taxidermists in Oregon.
Many hunters from surrounding states bring carcasses to Oregon to be processed. Many also bring deer or elk heads to Oregon taxidermists for mounting.
The emergency rule’s ban on importing cervid carcasses and heads created a financial loss for butchers, processors and taxidermists.
The ban also interfered with the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servics’s animal forensic lab in Ashland to receive deer and elk carcasses from other states for analysis and investigation.
The amendment to the rule, which takes effect immediately, allows Oregon meat-processing facilities and taxidermists to receive, process and return deer and elk carcasses from states that have not been identified as having chronic wasting disease.
Those states include Washington, Idaho and California.
The ban on importation of parts remains in place for deer and elk from states and Canadian provinces that have been identified as having chronic wasting disease in captive and/or wild deer and elk populations.
The disease has been found in free-ranging and/or captive mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk in Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
The amended rule also allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to receive carcasses from any state for purposes of analysis and investigation.
State wildlife biologists will continue efforts to sample Oregon’s wild herds for chronic wasting disease.
Results of all the deer and elk tissue samples collected this fall are expected to be available in mid to late spring 2003 and will be publicized.
Department officials are asking hunters to help with this effort by allowing field biologists who visit hunting camps to collect a thumb-size sample of the animal’s lower brain tissue, called the obex.
The sample collection will not harm taxidermy mounts or game meat processing.
“District biologists received lots of support from deer hunters,” said Don Whittaker, a big-game biologist for the department. “They are receptive and want to help.”
Biologists hope to send 500 preserved samples in December from deer and elk taken by hunters throughout Oregon this fall to the National Disease Health Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.
The samples will be tested for the abnormal protein that causes chronic wasting disease.
The procedure, which is extremely accurate, tests for the presence of the protein by adding a chemical to a thin slice of the sample tissue.
The chemical stains any chronic wasting disease agents called prions a specific color when viewed under a microscope.
The obex tissue is used because researchers have found it is where prions initially be-come established.
Biologists also collect a tooth to identify the age of the animal.
Hunters are asked to note the location of the kill using a Global Positioning System or by identifying the section, range and township on a map.
Biologists also will ask for the hunter’s identification number, found on the deer or elk tag.