Oregonians who hunt deer, elk or moose in other states or countries may bring their game meat home, but they cannot import any part of the head or spinal column, according to new rules adopted to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease.
The rules apply to all animals in the cervidae family, except reindeer. Caribou are the wild version of reindeer and are not governed by the new rules. Affected species include, but are not limited to, mule deer, white tailed deer, black tailed deer, axis deer, fallow deer, sika deer, Roosevelt elk, Rocky Mountain elk and moose.
Hunters may bring harvested game into Oregon in one of the following forms:
Quarters or other cuts of meat with no part of the spinal column or head; cut and wrapped meat; boned out meat; clean skull plate with antlers attached; antlers with no tissue attached; hides with no head attached; finished taxidermy heads; and upper canine teeth (buglers, whistlers, ivories).
Hunters may bring untanned hides home for taxidermy in Oregon. The hide and the clean skull plate must be separated in the field before they are brought into Oregon.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is sending letters to all licensed taxidermists and meat processors in Oregon with information about the new rules and guidance on handling meat harvested from states where chronic wasting disease is known to occur.
CWD is found in free-ranging or captive mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Alberta and Saskatchewan. The untreatable disease leads to progressive loss of body condition, behavioral changes, excessive salivation and death. In the later stages, small holes in the brain tissue of affected animals are visible with a microscope, producing a spongy look characteristic of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE). Similar TSE diseases exist in domestic sheep (scrapie), cattle (bovine TSE or mad cow disease), and humans (Crueutzfeldt-Jakob disease). Currently, no evidence exists that suggests humans may contract a TSE disease by eating the meat of infected animal, but research is ongoing.
Researchers believe an abnormal type of prion protein serves as the disease agent, but the origin and transmission of CWD are not clearly defined. No live animal test exists for elk. A newly developed live animal test for mule deer is not feasible for use in large wild populations.
ODFW reminds hunters to check with the state or province where they are hunting for current harvest regulations.