OLYMPIA - As a further precaution aimed at keeping chronic wasting disease (CWD) out of Washington, hunters may soon be prohibited from bringing home unprocessed carcasses of deer and elk from states and Canadian provinces where the disease is present in wild populations.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to consider imposing the ban on a temporary basis in its Aug. 6-7 meeting in Lynnwood (Snohomish County). The carcass ban could become a permanent rule in 2005.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists, who for the past two years have recommended hunters refrain from bringing home unprocessed deer and elk carcasses, now want to make the guideline a requirement. The proposal is prompted by recent CWD research in Colorado and Wyoming indicating the disease may be transmitted through soil contaminated by carcasses of infected animals.
"We want to take every reasonable precaution available to us to prevent CWD from entering this state," said Jerry Nelson, WDFW deer and elk manager.
If adopted by the commission, the rule would make it unlawful to import deer and elk harvested from states where CWD is present in wild populations, unless the animal carcass had already been boned out and processed. Hides and capes would be allowed only if heads are not attached, and skulls and antlers would be allowed only if all soft tissue is removed. Finished taxidermy mounts would be allowed.
Washington residents hunting in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan will have to comply with the stricter regulations.
Fifteen other states and one Canadian province have already regulated the importation of hunter-harvested deer and elk parts.
A disease of the central nervous system in deer and elk, CWD is a prion disease related to so-called "mad cow" disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. Thus far, despite over three years of random testing of hunter-harvested animals, no Washington deer or elk have been found with the disease.
Written public comments on the proposed regulation will be accepted through July 16 and should be addressed to: WDFW, Attn: Wildlife Program, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA 98501-1091. Citizens also may comment on the proposal during the Aug. 6-7 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 20610 44th Ave. W., in Lynnwood.
For more information on CWD visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/cwd/ on the WDFW website.