HARRISBURG - Using newly-granted emergency powers, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Vern Ross on Dec 20 issued an order banning the importation of specific carcass parts from states and Canadian provinces where chronic wasting disease had been identified in free-ranging populations of hooved animals. The ban closely mirrors a similar ban issued on Sept. 21 by the state Department of Agriculture, with the support of the Game Commission. Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolff used his emergency powers to issue the ban pending action by the Board of Game Commissioners to grant similar emergency powers to the agency’s executive director. “With chronic wasting disease present in free-ranging and captive wildlife populations in 14 states and two Canadian provinces, we must act responsibly and clearly to protect our wild and captive populations of deer and elk, as well as other cervid family members,” Ross said. “This ban applies to carcass parts from deer, elk or other hooved animals susceptible to Chronic wasting disease taken from the wild or from captive facilities in those states where chronic wasting disease has been found in wild herds. “There are many scientific unknowns about Chronic wasting disease, so this order may need to be altered in the future based on new discoveries, as well as new states that find Chronic wasting disease within their borders or other species that prove susceptible to the disease.” Ross noted that a copy of this order will be provided to all state and provincial wildlife agencies in the United States and Canada. He noted that the order will be reviewed on an annual basis to see if adjustments are necessary to further protect Pennsylvania’s wild and captive deer and elk. So far, members hooved animals that have been found susceptible to chronic wasting disease are white-tailed deer, black-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, red deer and moose. Hunters traveling to the following states will need to abide by the importation restrictions: Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The ban also impacts hunters traveling to Hampshire County in West Virginia, and those hunting within any specified containment zones in New York proactively identified by that state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. New York officials already banned hunters from removing specific carcass parts from an area where chronic wasting disease was identified early this year to prevent the possible inadvertent spread of the disease within the state’s borders. The Game Commission, with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture, has conducted tests on 162 elk and 6,259 deer killed by hunters in Pennsylvania over the past four and three years, respectively. Since 1998, the Game Commission, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture, has tested more than 400 deer that have died of unknown illness or were exhibiting abnormal behavior. No evidence of chronic wasting disease has been found in these samples. The Game Commission continues to monitor for and collect samples from deer and elk that appear sick or behave abnormally. Also, the agency recently collected samples from all hunter-killed elk and nearly 4,000 hunter-harvested wild deer for chronic wasting disease testing. First identified in 1967, chronic wasting disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy that affects cervids (hooved animals), including all species of deer, elk and moose. It is a progressive and always fatal disease of the nervous system. Scientists theorize chronic wasting disease is caused by an unknown agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form. Websites for all 50 state wildlife agencies can be accessed by going to www.wheretohunt.org, which is a website maintained by the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Additional information on Chronic wasting disease can be found on the chronic wasting disease Alliance’s website (www.chronic wasting disease-info.org).