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Pa. Game Commission expands Chronic Wasting Disease rules for hunters going out-of-state

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First Day of Deer Season and CWD Testing

PENNSYLVANIA–Pennsylvanians who go out-of-state to hunt may be affected by newly updated rules that prohibit the importation of specific high-risk cervid parts into Pennsylvania from states and provinces where chronic wasting disease has been detected.

Ohio has been added to the list of states from which high-risk cervid parts – including the head and backbone – cannot be imported into Pennsylvania. The addition is in response to chronic wasting disease (CWD) being detected in Ohio for the first time in 2014.

Additionally, the import of high-risk cervid parts into Pennsylvania from the entire states of Maryland, New York, Virginia and West Virginia is now prohibited.

Previously, the prohibition applied only to portions of those states in which CWD had been identified in captive or wild cervids.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the updated rules better protect Pennsylvania from high-risk parts that might come from out-of-state harvests.

Managing CWD to protect Pennsylvania’s deer and elk requires changes based on changing circumstances, Hough said. The boundaries of Disease Management Areas within Pennsylvania are adjusted in response to new cases of CWD. And the prohibition on importing high-risk cervid parts is extended to other states as cases are identified there.

Hough said applying the importation ban to all of Maryland, New York, Virginia and West Virginia is a necessary change, explaining the partial bans previously in place were difficult to enforce.

“The ban on the importation of high-risk cervid parts exists to provide the best protection possible to Pennsylvania’s deer and elk, and hunters can help us prevent CWD from spreading,” Hough said. “We understand that Pennsylvania hunters, and especially those who live near the state’s borders, frequently travel across state lines to hunt deer or other cervids. This expanded ban will inconvenience them, just as successful hunters traveling out of Pennsylvania’s Disease Management Areas are inconvenienced.
“The introduction and spread of CWD in our wild-deer population is a serious issue,” Hough said. “The consequences of spreading CWD has potential to jeopardize the future of deer hunting in Pennsylvania. We need your help to minimize the impacts of CWD in our state.”

Now that the updated order has taken effect, there are a total of 22 states and two Canadian provinces from which high-risk cervid parts cannot be imported into Pennsylvania.

The parts ban affects hunters who harvest deer, elk, moose, mule deer and other cervids in: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Those harvesting cervids in the identified states and provinces must leave behind the carcass parts that have the highest risk for transmitting CWD. Those parts are: the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides.

Hunters who are successful in those states and provinces from which the importation of high-risk parts into Pennsylvania is banned are allowed to import meat from any deer, elk, moose, mule deer or caribou, so long as the backbone is not present.

Successful hunters also are allowed to bring back cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue present; capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy mounts.

Pennsylvania first detected chronic wasting disease in 2012 at a captive deer facility in Adams County. The disease has since been detected in free-ranging deer in Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Fulton counties, and in captive deer at a Jefferson County facility.

In response to these CWD cases, the Game Commission has established three Disease Management Areas (DMAs) within which special rules apply. For instance, those who harvest deer within a DMA are not allowed to transport any high-risk deer parts outside the DMA.

Hough said hunters who harvest a deer, elk or moose in a state or province where CWD is known to exist should follow instructions from that state’s wildlife agency on how and where to submit the appropriate samples to have their animal tested.  If, after returning to Pennsylvania, a hunter is notified that his or her game tested positive for CWD, the hunter is encouraged to immediately contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which they reside for disposal recommendations and assistance.

A list of region offices and contact information appears on page 5 of the 2015-16 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is issued to hunters at the time they buy their Pennsylvania hunting licenses. The contact information also is available on the agency’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) by putting your cursor on “About Us” in the menu bar under the banner, then selecting “Regional Information” in the drop-down menu and then clicking on the region of choice in the map.

First identified in 1967, CWD affects members of the cervid family, including all species of deer, elk and moose. To date, no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans has been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the disease is always fatal to the cervids it infects.

As a precaution, CDC recommends people avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD.

More information on CWD can be found at CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov.

There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death.

Much more information on CWD, as well as a video showing hunters how they can process venison for transport and consumption, is available at the Game Commission’s website.