Hunters Ticketed For Illegal Importing Elk

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The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced it has issued tickets to three hunters in Shelter Island, Suffolk County, for illegally importing elk. DEC and the State Department of Agriculture and Markets banned the importation of deer and elk to New York State in April 2002 as a precautionary step to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease into wild and farmed herds of animals in the deer family in the state.

The three hunters, all from Shelter Island, were charged with importing three elk carcasses from Wyoming. Wyoming is one of 10 states and two Canadian provinces from which deer or elk carcasses may not be imported to New York.

On November 22, 2002, a DEC environmental conservation officer obtained information that two Shelter Island residents had returned home from a hunting trip in Grand Teton National Forest with two elk. The environmental conservation officer found two hunters to be in possession of the field dressed carcasses of two elk, including the heads. Upon further investigation the officer located a third subject in possession of a third elk.

With guidance from DEC wildlife biologists and the DEC's wildlife pathologist, officers packaged and shipped the intact heads and spinal columns to DEC's pathology laboratory in Delmar, Albany County. Meat from the butchered animals is under quarantine until tests for chronic wasting disease are complete. Officers provided instructions to the subjects on sanitation of the area and any implements used for butchering the animals.

Officers issued tickets to Gary J. Clark, 37, Kenneth E. Clark, 42, and Christian E. Johnson, 37, for illegal importation of elk. The violations are punishable by a fine of up to $250 and up to 15 days in jail. Initial investigation indicates that the animals were lawfully taken in Wyoming.

Chronic wasting disease has been diagnosed in captive elk or deer herds in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Kansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta. It has been confirmed in wild deer herds in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Mexico and South Dakota. There are no known cases of the disease in New York State.

Chronic wasting disease is typified by chronic weight loss and is always fatal to the animal. The origin of the disease and the mode of transmission are unknown. To date, chronic wasting disease has been found only in members of the deer family in North America. There is no evidence that the disease is linked to disease in humans or domestic livestock other than deer and elk.

DEC and the Department of Agriculture and Markets, which is responsible for the health of domestic deer and elk herds in New York, first issued a 90-day ban on the importation of deer and elk, which included all members of the cervid family (deer, elk and moose), in April. A subsequent regulation revised the ban to prohibit only the import of white-tailed deer, mule deer, including the black-tailed subspecies, and all species of elk, including the European red deer. The current regulation was put in place on October 11, 2002 and is in effect at least until January 9, 2003 while permanent regulations addressing chronic wasting disease are developed. Feeding of deer has also been banned in New York State.

The regulation, which is part of DEC's comprehensive disease management effort, includes:

  • a ban on the importation of the brain, eyes, spinal cord, lymph nodes, tonsils or spleen from wild deer or elk taken in states or Canadian provinces where chronic wasting disease has been found. This ban also applies to captive or captive-bred deer or elk from anywhere outside New York;
  • specific procedures for handling the carcasses and parts from wild deer or elk taken in states or Canadian provinces where chronic wasting disease has been found. This includes boning all meat, keeping meat from individual animals separate and labeling all parts before they can be imported. The procedures also apply to carcasses and parts from captive or captive-bred deer or elk from anywhere outside New York.
  • an exemption allows travelers passing through New York to transport deer and elk carcasses, provided no parts are disposed of or remain in New York State;
  • a ban on the liberation or release to the wild of any captive or captive-bred deer or elk. An individual also is required to have a permit or license from DEC to liberate or release to the wild any white-tailed deer; and
  • a prohibition on the feeding of captive or wild deer or elk with any material that contains protein derived from mammalian tissues.

The DEC regulation contains specific information on exactly what activities are not considered to be feeding deer, the type information that must appear on the labels required for importing parts of deer or elk, and which parts may be imported with proper labeling. Hunters can import packaged boned-out meat, hides, capes, cleaned skull plates, antlers and finished taxidermy mounts.

The Agriculture and Markets regulation prohibits importation of live deer, including red deer, elk, sika deer and the white tailed and black tailed mule deer into New York.

DEC and Agriculture and Markets are focusing disease management efforts on measures to prevent CWD from being introduced into the state. In July 2002, DEC began sampling wild white-tailed deer and captive deer to determine if chronic wasting disease is present in New York's deer herd. Chronic wasting disease has not been found in New York.