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Hunters Should Sample Elk, Deer For Disease

Big game hunters who tag a deer or elk early in the season should stop by one of ODFW’s Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) check stations the opening weekend of major rifle seasons. ODFW staff will be sampling animals for this deadly disease recently detected in Idaho near Oregon’s northeast border.

Hunters can also contact their local ODFW office to arrange for district staff to get a sample or ask their meat processor or taxidermist. Find a list of participating ODFW offices and businesses at https://myodfw.com/articles/other-ways-get-your-animal-tested-cwd

New this year, hunters transporting deer, elk or other wildlife parts who encounter a CWD check station are required to stop to have their animal sampled (per HB 3152 passed by Oregon’s legislature last year). Hunters or vehicles that are not transporting wildlife carcasses or parts do not need to stop. Hunters are also not required to go out of their way to drive by a check station, though ODFW encourages every hunter transporting a deer or elk to stop by if they are in the area.

ODFW has sampled more than 24,000 deer and elk for CWD over the past 20 year as the disease began to spread from Colorado and Wyoming to other states due to animal migrations and movements of live animals and carcasses by people. Oregon’s surveillance effort has not detected CWD in free-ranging deer, elk or moose within our borders. Unfortunately, it was found in mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk and white-tailed deer in NW Idaho, just 30 miles from the Oregon border, late last year.

“With the disease detected in multiple species so close to Oregon, we are concerned it could already be here,” said Dr. Colin Gillin, ODFW state wildlife veterinarian. “That’s why we are asking successful hunters to please get their animal tested this year.”

The more animals the state tests, the more certain ODFW can be that the disease is not in the state.  If it is detected, ODFW can implement its response plan to contain the spread of the disease.

“There is no cure, no treatment, or vaccine for the disease and it is fatal to all animals that become infected,” continued Gillin. “But if we catch it early, we will have the best chance of minimizing its spread and impact on Oregon’s big game herds.”

Once an animal is infected, it can take several years for symptoms to appear, so in most cases deer and elk that test positive for the disease will appear normal and healthy. That’s why ODFW tests as many animals as it can, including both hunter-harvested and roadkilled deer and elk. Oregon’s captive elk facilities are also assisting in the state’s surveillance by testing all of their captive animals that die beyond the age of 6 months.

How to get your deer or elk tested and see the result

There are three ways to get your animal sampled:

  1. CWD Check stations: It only takes a few minutes for staff to sample your animal with the collection of a lymph node and associated hunter information. Again, hunters transporting a deer or elk who approach a CWD check station are required to stop; failure to stop could result in a citation. Highway signs will be posted to alert hunters to check stations and more locations will be added throughout the fall hunting seasons.

Opening weekend rifle deer season: 

  • Celilo Park (exit 97 off I-84 west of Biggs Junction), Oct. 2-4, 9 a.m. to dusk.
  • Prineville, Crook County Fairgrounds, 1280 S Main St, Oct. 1-3, 9 a.m. to dusk.
  • Elgin Rodeo Grounds, 790 S 8th Ave, Oct. 2-4, noon to 6 p.m.

Opening weekend rifle Rocky Mtn elk season:

  • Celilo Park (exit 97 off I-84 west of Biggs Junction), Oct. 29-31, 9 a.m. to dusk.
  • Prineville, Crook County Fairgrounds, Oct. 29-31, 9 a.m. to dusk.
  • Elgin Rodeo Grounds, 790 S 8th Ave, Oct. 29-31, 12-6 p.m.
  1. Several taxidermy and meat processor businesses have agreed to collect CWD samples from animals they receive from their clients and provide it to ODFW. See the list of participating businesses online or ask your taxidermist or meat processor to collect a sample.

 Make appointment at a local ODFW office or drop in barrel.

  1. Successful hunters can also contact certain field or district offices to have a biologist collect a sample from their deer or elk. ODFW will collect the sample from the animal’s spinal column near the brain or lymph node in the pharynx or upper throat region. Keep your deer/elk head cool prior to sampling if possible. Call the office to make an appointment in advance as biologists are often in the field. Some offices will have barrels outside so hunters can submit a head after hours; use bags and ID card to provide ODFW ID number and contact information. See list of offices taking samples online.

Test results are expected to take up to a month. If an animal ever tests positive for CWD, a biologist or veterinarian will phone the hunter directly. Negative test results will be posted by ODFW ID number for hunters to individually check online at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/health_program/CWD-testing/

What is CWD and can humans get it?

Chronic Wasting Disease affects members of the Cervid family such as deer, elk and moose. It is an always fatal, infectious disease caused by a protein called a prion. It is spread by nose-to-nose contact between animals and through urine, feces, blood and saliva. The more animals are congregated, the easier it is for CWD to pass from one animal to another, which is why baiting and feeding deer and elk is a risky practiced and discouraged to prevent disease spread.

The disease-causing agents, called prions, are shed in feces and urine by live infected animals or in the carcasses of animals who died infected with the disease. Prions can also persist in soil for years, potentially infecting other animals into the future. Many states, including Oregon, ban the import of certain animal parts, such as brain and spinal column, from other states (see Parts Ban for more info).  This regulation limits the chance that infected brain or spinal column will be discarded on the landscape to potentially infect an Oregon animal.

Infected animals can spread the disease for several years before showing symptoms (which include loss of balance, drooling, emaciation or wasting). So, testing apparently healthy deer and elk early in the course of the disease when they are not showing symptoms is the most effective method to catch the disease before an animal has spread the disease across the landscape and to other animals.

There is no evidence that humans can contract CWD from eating or handling meat from an animal infected with the disease. However, humans are susceptible to other similar diseases such as Mad Cow disease from the cattle form of this prion disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), which is a naturally occurring human-form of a similar prion disease. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends caution and provides information on preventative steps hunters can take to be as safe as possible

For more information on CWD visit https://myodfw.com/CWD

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