Chronic wasting disease in Oregon
Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal disease infecting deer and elk across North America. While CWD has not yet been detected in Oregon, both hunters and wildlife managers need to be on the watch.
In this Article
2023 CWD check stations
Oct. 7-9 (10 am - 6 pm) and Nov. 4-6 (10 am - 5 pm)
- Elgin, Elgin Stampede Grounds, 790 S 8th Ave, 97827 (Google Map coordinates)
- Baker City, ODOT parking lot off Hwy 86 (Google Map coordinates)
Oct. 8-10 (9 am to dusk) and Nov. 4-6 (9 am to dusk)
- Prineville, Crook County Fair Grounds, 1280 Main St., 97754 (Google Map coordinates)
- Celilo Park, Exit 97 off I-84 (Google Map coordinates)
Smaller check stations will also be open in some districts throughout the state, and hunters should contact their district directly for more information on potential locations.
*** If you encounter a CWD check station while transporting an animal carcass you are legally required to stop. ***
CWD at a glance
- CWD is a fatal, highly infectious disease of deer and elk that's widespread throughout the United States, but has not yet been detected in Oregon.
- In 2021, CWD was detected in two Idaho mule deer within 30 miles of the Oregon border.
- If CWD takes hold in Oregon, the impact on localized deer and elk populations could be significant.
- CWD check stations during hunting seasons will help ODFW monitor the potential spread of the disease in Oregon.
- If you harvest a deer or elk and encounter a CWD check station on your way home, you MUST STOP and have your animal tested. It's the law.
- When hunting out of state, remember it's illegal to bring the brain and/or spinal column of a harvested animal back with you into Oregon. These are body parts known to harbor the disease.
What else can hunters do?
Hunters can do their part to help contain the spread of CWD by properly disposing of animal parts and avoiding products made with deer or elk urine.
Don't bring certain animal parts home
If you harvest a deer, elk, moose or caribou in any other state or Canadian province, it is illegal to bring certain parts of the animal back into Oregon.
Hunters who bring illegal parts into Oregon will have those parts and potentially their entire harvested animal confiscated and may be liable for the cost of incinerating them.
For more guidance on what parts can be brought into Oregon, please see the Parts Ban section under General Hunting Regulations (page 16) in the 2023 Big Game Hunting Regulations. Note that the Parts Ban now extends to all 50 states, provinces and other countries - not just those with a documented case of CWD.
"If we ever document CWD in Oregon, we want to act quickly and will need the support of Oregon hunters. Early detection is our best chance to keep the disease from spreading, should it enter the state." - Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian.
Leave carcass parts in the state of harvest
If you harvested a deer or elk in another state, ODFW recommends that you remove all the meat from that animal and leave the bones, organs, brain and spinal column in the state of harvest or follow that state's carcass disposal recommendations. Many states provide carcass parts receptacles or dumpsters, or recommend carcasses be deposited in an approved landfill rather than on the landscape.
Resident hunters have no restrictions for carcass transport or disposal if the animal stays within the state of Oregon. ODFW biologists and veterinarians recommend that hunters do not dispose of waste parts (bones, organs) in areas other than near the site of the kill, directly in a landfill or via routine garbage disposal with your service provider.
Do not use deer/elk urine products
The use of products containing commercial deer or elk urine (scent lures) has been banned in Oregon as part of efforts across North America to reduce the risk of spreading CWD.
In 2019, Oregon State Legislature passed HB 2294, banning all commercially produced deer and elk urine scents that contain or are derived from any cervid urine to reduce the threat of CWD.
Oregon's ban follows several other states due to a recommendation from the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) Best Management Practices for prevention and management of CWD.
Hunters or businesses who have these products should safely dispose of them by bringing them to an ODFW district office. ODFW staff will arrange for any scent products collected to be incinerated in an 1,800-degree oven, a temperature known to kill the prion that causes CWD.
"It's important that these products are not poured down a drain or on the ground when they are discarded. We want to limit the CWD prion that causes the disease from being deposited on the landscape." - Colin Gillin
What ODFW is doing
CWD has been on ODFW's radar since 1996, when the department began testing, with almost 28,000 deer and elk sampled for the disease to date. This has included hunter-harvest animals, roadkill and other animals found dead or sick in the field.
Since 2002, ODFW's response to the CWD threat has focused on prevention, surveillance and response guided by a team of biologists and veterinarians using the most current technology to combat the disease and following a CWD surveillance and response plan
Efforts to keep CWD out of Oregon
The ODFW staff and Fish and Wildlife Commission have taken several actions since 2002 to try to prevent the spread of CWD to Oregon. These actions include:
- Banning the importation of live cervids into Oregon.
- Restricting the importation of intact carcasses by hunters and banning import of specific cervid carcass parts containing central nervous system tissue (brain and spinal column) from animals killed in other states, provinces and countries.
- Requiring all hunters transporting harvested wildlife to stop at ODFW check stations when encountered.
- Banning all commercially produced deer and elk urine scent products that contain or are derived from any cervid urine. The import of reproductive products for artificial insemination must be pre-approved by the department and originate from a CWD-negative state or province.
- Requiring captive cervid facilities to report all deceased captive elk and submit for testing the heads of all animals older than six months dying of any cause.
Surveillance in Oregon elk and deer herds
Keeping CWD out of Oregon forever may not be possible. However, if it does enter the state, limiting its distribution will depend on knowing the percentage of animals infected and where they're located. ODFW has been monitoring deer and elk for CWD for decades. With CWD at the states' border, these efforts will become more critical and targeted. This will include:
- Increased sampling to collect high-risk animals in areas where CWD may be likely to enter the state. High-risk groups include herds bordering states with CWD, roadkill animals, and mature adult animals.
- Having all hunters encountering check stations stop to have their animal sampled and tested. While ODFW has been staffing CWD check stations for years, stopping to have your deer or elk checked has become mandatory since 2022.
- Continue testing deer and elk for CWD as part of the roadkill salvage program.
- Work with taxidermists and commercial meat processors to collect samples for testing and develop rules for the safe disposal of animal waste that could carry the CWD prion, namely the brain, spinal cord and lymph nodes.
Planning a response to CWD detection
ODFW has recently revised the Oregon CWD Management Plan which was initially written in 2005 and updated in both 2010 and 2015. The current revision is based on the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Best Management Practices for the Prevention, Surveillance and Management of CWD. ODFW's plan addresses four implementation actions:
- Notify partner sportsman's groups, agencies and the hunter whose animal tested positive.
- Determine the range of cervid species affected, distribution, and prevalence of the disease.
- Control the number and movement of potentially infected animals and manage the disease through strategic response actions
- Relay accurate information to the media, hunters and other members of the public.
Unfortunately, there have been very few successful efforts to control the spread of CWD in states where the disease has been found. The success of the ODFW management plan will depend on hunter cooperation, good communication with partner groups and implementing modern strategies for CWD management.
These strategies could include changes to big game hunting seasons or bag limits. For example, there is some evidence that increased hunting pressure to sustain long-term reduction of wild herd sizes in disease hot spots may be effective.
CWD: Highly contagious, always fatal
Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal, infectious disease that affects members of the cervid family such as deer, elk and moose. It’s spread by nose-to-nose contact between animals and through urine, feces, blood and saliva. In addition, the disease-causing agents, called prions, are shed by infected animals and can persist in the soil for years, potentially infecting other animals.
The more animals are congregated the easier it is for CWD to pass from one to another. This makes commercial elk and other cervid ranches highly susceptible to CWD, in addition to wild cervids that often gather in large herds in the winter.
CWD is usually diagnosed by testing brain or lymph tissues from dead animals. Live animal testing is used on some occasions, but the tests are conducted mostly in research and require animal capture.
These factors -- highly infectious, long-lived prions, diagnosis using deceased animals – leave wildlife managers with challenges for minimizing the effects of CWD in animal populations once it has become established.
CWD in Oregon
Over the past 50 years, CWD has been detected in captive and/or wild cervids in 31 states and four Canadian provinces. Currently, CWD has not yet been detected in Oregon. However, in November 2021, CWD was found in two hunter-harvested mule deer in Idaho within 10 miles from the Snake River and Oregon border.
ODFW has been on the lookout for CWD since the late 1990s. Over the past 20+ years, staff have collected and tested nearly 28,000 samples from hunter harvested, road-killed and other dead deer and elk found in the field.
The Department will be operating wildlife inspection stations for CWD sample collection during the fall hunting season. If a sample tests positive for CWD, hunters/salvagers will be immediately contacted by ODFW. Note that test results will take several weeks.
What to expect at CWD check stations
ODFW will set up CWD check stations along major highways during the deer and elk hunting seasons in 2023. Look for highway signs directing hunters to pull over at one of these stations and have their animal tested.
Additional locations may be announced. Check with your local ODFW office and look for highway signs alerting you to check station locations. Remember you're required to stop if transporting a deer or elk.
If you are transporting animal parts for another hunter, you are required to have a Wildlife Transfer Record. This form can be found online or on page 104 of the 2023 Big Game Hunting Regulations. Also use the Wildlife Transfer Record when you leave your animal with meat processors or taxidermists. In all cases, the hunter tagging the animal should keep the tag with the parts of the animal they're keeping.
Beginning in 2022, stopping at a CWD check station when you pass it on the highway became mandatory if you are transporting harvested wildlife. This regulation was adopted after the passing of HB 3152, a bill introduced by the Oregon Hunters Association and passed by the 2021 Oregon State Legislature.
In addition to check stations, ODFW biologists and veterinarians are happy to sample your harvested deer or elk for CWD and provide you with the results via an online reporting system. Please contact your local ODFW office to set up an appointment to have your deer or elk tested for CWD. ODFW is most interested in deer and elk that are adult animals versus fawns or calves. For testing, ODFW will need the animal’s head and at least one vertebrae below the skull – keep your deer/elk head cool prior to sampling if possible.
When you bring your animal head or carcass in for testing, ODFW also will take a tooth for aging. You should receive a postcard several months later with information about the animal’s age.
Any adult deer or elk salvaged under Oregon’s new roadkill law is also being tested for CWD.
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