Oregon puts Pennsylvania on state's wasting disease list

Add Pennsylvania to the list of states from which it's illegal to import deer and elk parts into Oregon after a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease there.

CWD was discovered last fall in a Pennsylvania deer, bringing to 17 the number of states and Canadian provinces where the deadly disease has been discovered among deer and elk populations, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Although the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission added Pennsylvania to the list last month, the 2013 big-game hunting regulations had already been printed by then, so Pennsylvania is not listed in the new regulations.

For hunters to import meat into Oregon legally from states where CWD has been detected, the meat must be boned, cut and wrapped. Quarters or other portions must have no part of the spinal column or head attached.

The heads must be removed from hides and capes, and skull plates with antlers must be cleaned of all meat and brain matter. Antlers with no tissue are legal, and upper canine teeth and finished taxidermy heads are fine to transport.

CWD attacks the brains of deer and elk, causing weight loss and eventual death, yet exactly how it spreads remains unknown. It has never been detected in Oregon.

It is related to the so-called "mad cow disease," but there is no evidence that CWD can sicken humans. Infected animals can take up to three years to show symptoms.

None of the states or Canadian provinces with documented CWD infections have been successful in eradicating the disease.

For CWD to reach Oregon, a chain of infected animals would have to stretch here from a state such as Montana or Utah, where it has been detected, which is considered unlikely.

A more likely transmission route, biologists believe, would involve an infected carcass brought into the state. The fear is that prions — or agents that carry the disease — can live long enough in an exposed head or spinal column to infect an animal here and eventually take hold among Oregon's wild game.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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