OLYMPIA - With early fall hunting seasons opening soon in some areas of the country, Washington hunters are cautioned they could face penalties for bringing home bone-in deer or elk carcasses or body parts harvested from areas where chronic wasting disease (CWD) is present in wild-animal populations.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last week adopted restrictions on importation of bone-in deer and elk carcasses or body parts harvested in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, all of which have chronic wasting disease in the wild deer and/or elk populations.
The bone-in carcass restriction was prompted by recent research studies in Colorado and Wyoming which showed that the infective agents that cause chronic wasting disease can transfer from decomposing carcasses into the soil and then infect healthy deer. WDFW staff recommended the restriction on bone-in carcasses from CWD-endemic areas as a precaution to minimize the risk of introducing the disease into Washington deer or elk populations.
Violation of the rule, which takes effect Sept. 1., is a gross misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine or a year in jail.
"This is the time of year when many hunters are making their travel plans for fall hunts, and we want to alert them that they may also need to make plans to have their game butchered before heading home," said Jerry Nelson, deer and elk manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Hunters are still allowed to bring back de-boned deer and elk meat from the CWD-affected regions, as well as finished taxidermy mounts; skulls, antlers and teeth with all soft tissue removed; and hides or capes without heads attached. Whole, bone-in deer and elk carcasses and parts can also be brought back to Washington if they were harvested from states or provinces where CWD is not present in wild-animal populations.
The new rule is consistent with recommendations WDFW has been making to hunters for the past two years and is similar to guidelines imposed in states with CWD. 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. For more information on CWD visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/cwd/ on the WDFW website.