Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease infecting deer and elk across North America.
Here’s what Oregon hunters can do to help protect our wild deer and elk populations from CWD.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a fatal, infectious disease that is spread by nose to nose contact between animals and through urine, feces, blood and saliva infecting soils and habitats.
If you harvest a deer, elk, moose or caribou in one of the states or provinces below don’t bring home parts of the animal known to harbor the disease, namely eyes, brains, spinal columns, lymph nodes, tonsils and spleens.
Hunters who bring illegal parts into Oregon will have those parts 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 in the Big Game Regulations.
“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. That is why we need the active involvement of hunters and all Oregonians to continue surveillance and keep an eye open for animals that appear sick.” - Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian.
ODFW sets up check stations across the state during some high-traffic hunting weekends to test any harvested animals. Successful hunters are encouraged to stop; the sampling takes only a couple of minutes.
If you are interested in having your deer or elk tested for CWD at other times, contact your local ODFW office to set up an appointment. ODFW is most interested in deer and elk that are at least two-years-old (not spikes). For testing, ODFW will need the animal’s head and one or two vertebrae below the skull – keep your sample cool prior to sampling if possible. To avoid cross-contamination, don’t use the same tool to decapitate the animal and to butcher the meat – have dedicated tools for each job.
When you bring your animal 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.
If you see or harvest a sick deer or elk, DO NOT EAT THE MEAT. Report it to the ODFW Wildlife Health Lab number at 866-968-2600 or by email to Wildlife.Health@state.or.us .
The only way to diagnose an animal with CWD is to sample a part of the brain post-mortem. However, hunters can identify some symptoms of CWD, including, loss of bodily functions, staggering, standing with an exaggerated wide posture, carrying the head and ears low, drooling, drinking large amounts of water, excessive urination and having poor body condition i.e. “wasting” away.
It is important to note the symptoms of CWD are not visible in an animal right away. It may take a few years before an infected animal displays symptoms, but even a healthy looking animal can still be infected.
There is no evidence that humans can contract Chronic Wasting Disease from eating or handling contaminated meat. However we still recommend you NOT eat any meat from infected animal. Humans are susceptible to other similar diseases such as Mad Cow disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) so it’s best to be cautious.
In 2017, Canadian researchers reported they had macaque monkeys contract CWD after consistently eating infected venison; however, the results of the study are not yet published/peer-reviewed.
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