Deer and Elk Importation Restricted

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Preventing the spread of chronic wasting disease has become a priority for state fish and wildlife agencies throughout the country. At the recommendation of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board enacted a regulation on August 21, controlling the importation of deer and elk meat from areas where the disease is present.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) affects the brain and nervous system of deer and elk. Found in several states and two Canadian provinces, CWD belongs to a family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE). The disease, based on abnormal "prion" proteins, attacks the brains of infected deer and elk, producing spongelike lesions that always result in death.

While CWD is in the same disease family as mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep, there is no scientific evidence to date that CWD affects humans. However, much research needs to be completed to know for certain it cannot cross the human species barrier.

Earlier, the Fish & Wildlife and Agriculture Departments issued a joint ban on the importation of live deer and elk from states where CWD is present.

The new regulation prohibits the importation or possession of legally taken deer or elk, or parts of deer or elk, from CWD endemic areas, or from captive hunt or farm facilities with the following exceptions:

  • Meat that is cut up, packaged and labeled with hunting license information and not mixed with other deer or elk during processing.
  • Meat that is boneless.
  • Hides or cape with no part of the head attached.
  • Clean skull-cap with antlers attached.
  • Antlers with no other meat or tissue attached.
  • Finished taxidermy heads.
  • Upper canine teeth with no tissue attached.

The following states and Canadian provinces have found CWD in their deer or elk populations: Colorado, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alberta and Saskatchewan.

"Chronic wasting disease will have very serious consequences on the way Vermonter's view their deer herd and how the deer herd is managed," said John Buck, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's lead biologist on deer management. It is imperative the Fish & Wildlife Department do everything possible to prevent this disease from infecting Vermont's deer herd."

"That is exactly what we are striving to do with this new regulation," he added. "It allows hunters to continue to hunt elk and deer in those states that have CWD, but it also provides reasonable preventive measures protecting Vermont's native deer."