Man cited for bringing infected deer into Oregon

A Madras man was cited last week for illegally bringing into Oregon a hunter-killed mule deer carcass later discovered to be Montana's first free-range deer infected with the deadly chronic wasting disease.

Some infected parts of the butchered deer were found and removed after the man disposed of them in the Madras area, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Other parts were buried in a landfill and don't run the risk of getting into contact with wild deer here, thereby not risking Oregon's native deer and elk herds to this always fatal disease.

Oregon officially remains a CWD-free state, because the disease never has been detected in a captive or free-range deer here.

"We don't have CWD, but it's a very close call," ODFW spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy said.

Oregon State Police troopers seized packaged meat as well as additional parts of the infected deer for safe disposal by ODFW staff, the agency said in a release.

The unidentified man, who OSP said was cooperative and helpful in their investigation and recovery of the infected deer parts, was cited late last week for unlawful import of cervid parts from a CWD state.

To keep CWD out of Oregon, state law bans the transport of certain parts of deer, elk and moose that contain central nervous system parts, where the CWD prion is most concentrated. Only meat, skulls and antlers without spinal cord or brain tissue can be imported.

A Montana hunter who is a relative of the Madras man shot and killed the deer, then gave the carcass to the Madras man, ODFW officials said.

After the man left the state, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials notified ODFW officials that tests later showed the animal had CWD, said ODFW.

Chronic wasting disease is caused by a protein prion that damages the brain of infected animals, causing progressive neurological disease and loss of body function. Untreatable and always fatal, it spreads through nose-to-nose contact between infected animals and through bodily fluids.

The prions that cause CWD can last a long time in the environment, infecting new animals for decades, which is why Oregon has had a parts ban in place for the past 15 years.

"CWD is considered one of the most devastating wildlife diseases on the American landscape today," Colin Gillin, ODFW state wildlife veterinarian, said in a news release. "Once CWD enters a state and infects free-ranging deer and elk, it has been nearly impossible to eradicate with present-day tools. So we want to do all we can to keep Oregon CWD-free."

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

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