State warns against hunters importing disease

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:57

    HARRISBURG - Sportsmen planning on out-of-state hunting this year should be aware that introducing meat and carcass parts from certain states into Pennsylvania has been prohibited. “Recently, the state Department of Agriculture, with the support of the Game Commission, issued an order to ban the importation of specific carcass parts from states and Canadian provinces that have a history of chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer populations, with one exception,” said Vern Ross, Game Commission executive director. “States named in the order are: Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Parts are banned only from Hampshire County in West Virginia, where four deer recently have tested positive for chronic wasting disease.” Also, Ross noted that since New York officials have imposed a ban on removing specific carcass parts from a specified containment area in New York, Pennsylvania has not included New York on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s importation ban, which takes effect Oct. 1. Specific carcass parts, where the disease prion (causative substance) concentrates in deer or elk, listed in the Department of Agriculture’s order as being prohibited from being brought back to Pennsylvania by hunters are: head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and retropharyngeal lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft material is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides. Ross noted that the order does not limit the importation of the following animal parts originating from any hunter-harvested deer or elk in the quarantined states or area: meat, without the backbone; skull plate with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord material present; cape, if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft material is present; and finished taxidermy mounts. In June, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a measure granting certain emergency authorities to the executive director to prevent the spread of the disease, if it is discovered in or near the state or poses a serious threat to the Commonwealth’s deer and elk populations. If approved by the Board this month, the regulation, among other things, would grant the executive director the authority to ban the importation of specific deer or elk parts. “If the Board approves the regulation change, I expect to implement the ban on importing certain deer and elk parts as soon as possible to mirror the Department of Agriculture’s action,” Ross said. Pennsylvania hunters heading to a state with a history of chronic wasting disease should become familiar with that state’s wildlife regulations and guidelines for the transportation of harvested game animals. Wildlife officials have suggested hunters in areas where the disease is known to exist follow these recommendations to prevent the possible spread of the disease: - Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that appears sick; contact the state wildlife agency if you see or harvest an animal that appears sick. - Wear rubber or latex gloves when field-dressing carcasses. - Bone out the meat from your animal. - Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues. - Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field-dressing is completed. - Request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal, or process your own meat if you have the tools and ability to do so. - Have your animal processed in the endemic area of the state where it was harvested, so that high-risk body parts can be properly disposed of there. Only bring low-risk materials back to Pennsylvania. - Don’t consume the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field-dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will remove remaining lymph nodes.) - Avoid consuming the meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease. Ross said hunters who harvest a deer or elk where CWD is known to exist should follow that state’s wildlife agency’s instructions on how and where to submit the appropriate samples to have their animal tested. If, after returning to Pennsylvania, a hunter is notified that their game tested positive for CWD, the hunter is encouraged to contact the Game Commission for disposal recommendations. In other disease-related news, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has implemented a mandatory surveillance monitoring program for captive deer and elk beginning Oct. 1. As of January, Pennsylvania has 687 deer propagators, 24 elk propagators and 55 propagators with both deer and elk. Pennsylvania ranks as one of the top states in deer propagators.