Live Deer Species Importation Banned
To protect the state's high quality deer and elk herds, Gov. Paul Patton signed an executive order today to ban the importation, and restrict the exportation and transportation of all live deer species in Kentucky, effective immediately.
Officials with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) and Kentucky Department of Agriculture jointly sought issuance of the ban following increasing concerns over the potential introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease to the commonwealth's deer herd.
"The ban is necessary to reduce the potential of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) getting a foothold in our state," said KDFWR Wildlife Division Director Dr. Jon Gassett.
"While Kentucky's herds are presently free of CWD, it has recently been discovered in Illinois, 300 miles from Kentucky's western border. CWD is fatal to deer and elk, and has spread to several states due to the movement of infected animals from captive deer and elk farms."
"We have to take preventative action that will reduce the potential of CWD being brought into Kentucky," said Gassett.
For 35 years, CWD was known to exist only in a small area in the corner of Colorado and Wyoming. The recent spread of the disease to nine additional states, Canada and South Korea has forced state wildlife agencies nationwide to take greater caution in trying to protect their herds. Kentucky, along with numerous other states, is testing hunter-harvested deer this season for the presence of CWD.
"We believe most of the infected animals, and the spread of CWD, can be traced back to the movement of captive deer and elk," said Gassett.
"We're concerned about animals coming in, animals being held in captivity here now, and animals passing through going somewhere else, from captive or wild sources," he said, "and it's in everybody's interest to tighten the requirements now."
CWD has up to a five-year incubation period, there's no way to test a live animal to see if it is infected, and there's no vaccine. CWD isn't currently known to affect livestock, but more research needs to be done. Once the disease agent is introduced to the environment, it is extremely resistant and hangs on for a very long time.
"Given what the deer and elk resources mean to the economy and Kentucky's ecosystem, we must take every step we can to guard against CWD becoming introduced," Gassett said.
The deer and elk resources in Kentucky generate more than $300 million annually to the state's economy through providing hunting, wildlife viewing and employment related to those activities. There are more than 270,000 deer hunters in Kentucky, and more than 1.2 million Kentuckians watch wildlife for enjoyment.