OLYMPIA – As fall hunting seasons get under way, Washington wildlife officials are reminding hunters that it is illegal to bring home bone-in deer or elk carcasses or body parts from eight states and one Canadian province where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in wild herds.
In addition, they are asking hunters to observe the same restrictions for deer and elk from two other states – New York and West Virginia – and the Canadian province of Alberta where CWD has been detected in herds within the past year.
“To date, no cases of CWD have been found in Washington, and we want to keep it that way,” said Kristin Mansfield, wildlife veterinarian for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). “Hunters can help by observing the restrictions on bringing carcasses in from other areas where CWD is a problem.”
First identified in Colorado in 1967, CWD is a disease of the central nervous system related to so-called "mad cow" disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep. The disease is always fatal to infected deer and elk, but there are no known cases of it being transmitted to people, domestic animals or livestock, Mansfield said.
Last year, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted restrictions on importing 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 their wild deer or elk populations.
Violation of the rule is a gross misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of up to $5,000 in fines or a year in jail.
Mansfield said WDFW has proposed that the commission officially add New York, West Virginia and Alberta to the current rule forbidding importation of bone-in deer and elk carcasses and body parts during its regular meeting in December. In the meantime, wildlife officials are urging hunters to take the same precautions with game from those places as for those already included in the regulations.
Under those regulations, hunters can still 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 animals, Mansfield said.
Bill Jarmon, WDFW deputy chief of enforcement, said officers will be on the lookout for violations of the rules on importation of deer and elk carcasses.
“Our first priority is to educate hunters about this issue, and we will investigate all situations involving CWD and take appropriate enforcement action,” he said. “It’s important that we keep this disease out of Washington state.”
For more information about CWD, visit http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/health/cwd/ on the WDFW website.