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Permanent ban is imposed on the import of all cervids


November 9, 2002 The Oregonian by Bill Monroe

The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission acts to stop the spread of the fatal chronic wasting disease

Over the pleas of some venison-producing ranchers, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission imposed a permanent ban Friday on the import of all live grazing deerlike animals, called cervids.

The ban, which replaces a temporary rule imposed in August, includes farmed elk and all exotic deer species such as fallow, axis and sika deer.

Oregon joins dozens of other states in imposing similar restrictions in the wake of a fatal brain condition, chronic wasting disease, which is similar to mad cow disease and is spreading across the continent. The untreatable disease, related also to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, is found in free-ranging or captive mule deer, white-tailed deer and elk in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, South Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Commissioners did not impose a permanent ban on parts of deer and elk brought back to Oregon by an estimated 4,000 residents who hunt in other states.

However, strict rules for hunters under the temporary August action remain in effect until February.

Those rules allow only boned or cut and wrapped meat, no brain parts, whole heads or spines and only hides and portions of clean skull plates with antlers attached.

Approved exceptions:

* Reindeer, which about a dozen ranchers raise and send across the nation during Christmas and for other purposes, may still come and go but must avoid contact with other cervids.

* A group of 14 elk in a research project from the Starkey Experimental Forest in northeast Oregon were stranded by the August ban in Eastern Washington, where they are part of a long-term study of various elk forages. They will be allowed to return after a medical clearance.

* The U.S. Fish and Wildlife forensics laboratory in Ashland will be allowed to import animal parts for investigations and research.

* The ban currently applies also to the Oregon Zoo, but zoo officials have three months to return to the commission with a proposal for an exemption. The zoo has no plans to import new animals, but officials said they might participate in research on threatened and endangered species such as the woodland caribou.

State biologists said Wildlife Safari in Winston told them a ban would not affect the animal park because it has all the breeding stock it needs.

"Fallow deer have been a domestic species for more than 2,000 years," said Stephen Pederson of Bend, one of two dozen fallow deer raisers in the state. Pederson sells venison to restaurants.

Fallow deer, he said, have not contracted chronic wasting disease.

However, members of the MAD Elk Coalition countered, too little is known about the disease, how it's spread or which animals can contract it, to take risks.

The commission's rule will be reviewed in two years. Bill Monroe: 503-221-8231; billmonroe@news.oregonian.com

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