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Oregon hunters must go pee-free

Oregon hunters next year will be banned from using commercial scents made from real deer or elk urine under the latest attempt to keep the deadly Chronic Wasting Disease from establishing itself here.

Gov. Kate Brown recently signed a bill passed by the Oregon Legislature that targets natural scents, joining seven other states allowing only synthetic-based scents for use in the field as attractants or to mask human scent.

A 2017 study showed that CWD-infected elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer can shed the prion protein causing CWD in urine, even though the animals showed no CWD symptoms.

The ban goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020, and owners of the scents will be asked to bring them to an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife office so agency officials can incinerate the products in an oven at 1,800 degrees, a temperature known to kill the prion.

News of the under-the-radar bill will send sporting goods stores scurrying to rid their shelves of the scents during the upcoming fall deer and elk seasons.

Mike McMullen, manager of Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford, said his store has about $1,000 worth of deer and elk urine products on its shelves, and he will try to reduce the store’s loss.

“A thousand bucks is a thousand bucks, but we’ll do what we have to to keep legal,” McMullen said.

McMullen said his store will try to sell the urine products to hunters for use this fall, and what’s left will be turned over to ODFW for incineration. He said he also plans to put a stop to any future orders of urine products Black Bird hasn’t received.

ODFW wildlife veterinarian Colin Gillin said it’s important that owners of the soon-to-be-banned scents don’t pour them down drains or on the ground because the prions can live in the environment for decades before infecting wild deer and elk.

“We want to limit the prion that causes the disease from being deposited on the landscape,” Gillin said.

CWD has never been detected in Oregon’s wildlife but has been found in free-ranging deer and elk in 26 other states, including several western states. The disease, which is untreatable and always fatal, damages the brain of infected animals, causing progressive neurological disease. The prions can spread through the animal’s body fluids and through nose-to-nose contact with an infected animal.

Commercial scents containing natural cervid urine largely come from captive herds, some of which are known to have housed or spread CWD and are considered at high risk of spreading it.

House Bill 2294 originally sought to ban only scent products collected from captive herds not certified as CWD-free and garnered the support of the Oregon Hunters Association and other sporting groups, including the Legislature’s Sportsmen’s Caucus.

It was sponsored by Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, and Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, and passed the House with the testing requirements intact.

While under consideration by the state Senate, the bill changed to a complete ban on natural urine products amid concerns of the lack of quality urine testing, especially among out-of-state urine providers, Smith said.

When the bill returned to the House with those provisions, state representatives supported the change, Smith said.

The ban is the latest step Oregon has taken toward keeping CWD outside of its borders.

ODFW has been monitoring the state’s deer and elk for CWD for years by testing roadkill carcasses and harvested animals at checkpoints during hunting seasons. Oregon has also banned the import of any deer, elk, caribou or moose part containing central nervous system tissue, such as whole heads or spinal columns, which is where the prions exist.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Mike McMullen, Blackbird Manager, points out hunting scents at Blackbird on Friday.
Jamie Lusch /Mail Tribune Hunting Scents are for sale at Blackbird in Medford.