Hunting is popular in the Northwest. More than 137,000 licensed hunters took more than 20,000 elk statewide in 2000, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. But after a big-game hunter bags his kill, what's he or she to do with the remains?
According to some local residents and hunting advocates, too many hunters are dumping the dead animals in plain sight, leaving elk and deer carcasses alongside rural roadways. The sight and smell of hides, bones and flesh decaying in or near public areas irritates neighbors and can alienate hunters from nonhunters, they say.
"It's a nuisance. It's unsightly. Who wants to go walking by rotting animal carcasses?" asked Margie Tomlinson, a resident from the Big Creek area. She lives near a favorite carcass dumping ground, Palmrose Road, a gravel logging route that connects to her street. "It's not too thrilling when the neighbor's dog has to only go 300 yards down the road to drag a carcass home and leave it along my fence," she said.
The practice can offend nonhunters and make it difficult for hunters to win permission to hunt on private lands, said Jim Bergeron, chairman of the Saddle Mountain Archers, a local bow-hunters' club.
"This is like spitting in the face of nonhunters," he said. "As hunters, we should be aware of nonhunters sensibilities. They don't like the thought of hunters shooting animals."
He lives on old U.S. Highway 30 near Svensen and regularly sees carcasses, or pieces of them, dumped on his road or nearby logging routes. Bergeron said hunters usually gut an animal where and when it is first killed, and then take it home and remove the best meat. They are then left with the carcass, which is unfortunately often dumped at the nearest semi-secluded spot.
The practice is common in Clatsop County, according to Senior Trooper Trygve Klepp of the Oregon State Police in Astoria. The carcasses are often deposited in areas where a rural paved road intersects a gated gravel road, he said. A spot by the Fort Clatsop National Monument near Warrenton is another favorite dump site. Last September, one elk carcass was even dumped on one of the Port of Astoria's piers.
"It's quick and convenient, and people don't want to spend too much time or expense, and they'll just dump it," said Klepp.
"There is quite a bit of it that goes on in the county," admits Howard Martin, president of the Lower Columbia Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association.
Most of his group's local members disapprove of the practice because it projects a negative image of hunters, he said. But his local chapter hasn't taken any formal steps to try to correct the problem. And the association's state office in Medford hasn't recognized the practice as widespread.
The dumping has been especially bad this year, according to Bergeron. (The bulk of elk hunting occurs in the fall, but some hunting stretches through the winter.)
No specific ODFW regulations govern the disposal of big game carcasses, except a rule that prevents the waste of the meat, according to the OSP. However if caught, dumpers could face a littering charge, Klepp said.
According to Tom Thorton, ODFW's game program manager in Salem, it can be best to return an elk or deer carcass to the woods where it was originally killed, because the remains then get recycled through the environment. But hunters need to be conscientious about where they place the animal and keep it far out of sight and away from streams, he said.
Disposal is difficult in Clatsop County, because there is no dump or waste disposal center that will take the dead animals. The Clatsop Transfer Station in Astoria, run by Western Oregon Waste, will not accept animal carcasses.
"What's a guy to do?" asks Martin. "It's a problem that needs to be addressed. People need to be able to get rid of this stuff."