Exotic Newcastle Quarantine Impacts Turkey Hunters

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture/APHIS and the New Mexico Livestock Board have activated quarantine restrictions on all birds in Otero, Luna and Dona Ana counties, as well as El Paso and Hudspeth counties in Texas, due to exotic Newcastle disease. The quarantine took effect April 10, 2003, although no cases of exotic Newcastle disease have been found in New Mexico.

Turkey hunters, falconers and all bird owners are expected to abide by this quarantine.

"Department personnel have been working closely with both federal and state officials to alert and inform New Mexico residents about the impacts of the federal quarantine," said Dan Brooks, chief of Law Enforcement for the Department. "This includes permitted users like falconers, bird propagators, wildlife rehabilitators, shooting preserves, educational animal permits and scientific collecting permits."

Birds may not be transported within, through or removed from quarantine areas and dead birds may not be transported out of the quarantine area. Birds may be moved into the quarantine area, but then become subject to all quarantine restrictions.

"If a falconer takes his birds to Las Cruces for an event, technically, the bird is stuck there," said Kerry Mower, wildlife disease specialist for the Department. "Rehabilitated birds in quarantine areas that are healthy and ready to go cannot be released until the quarantine is lifted."

Special permission may be requested to move wild birds within the quarantine area, but all special requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by an interagency task force in El Paso. The task force must be contacted for special instructions regarding bird carcass disposal at (915) 859-9446.

Outbreaks of exotic Newcastle disease were confirmed Oct. 1, 2002 in California, followed by Nevada, Arizona and El Paso, Texas. The disease is contagious and fatal, affecting many species of birds. It affects the bird's respiratory, nervous and digestive systems and is so virulent birds may die before showing any symptoms. It is extremely difficult and costly to eradicate. Birds in confinement die in large numbers. While the disease has not been confirmed in New Mexico, the three counties were quarantined due to their proximity to infected areas.

A small number of turkey hunters in Otero County may be affected by the quarantine; there are no turkey hunts in Luna or Dona Ana counties. Turkey hunters who harvest birds in Otero County may safely consume the turkeys or donate them to someone who lives in the county, but may not remove any part of the harvested turkey from the quarantine area. A donation slip is available on page 15 of the Big Game Rules and Information Booklet, available at Game and Fish offices, approximately 230 license vendors statewide and at www.gmfsh.state.nm.us.

"The Department of Game and Fish intends to cooperate fully with federal and state quarantine measures until the magnitude of this disease outbreak is fully understood and resolved," said Larry Bell, Game and Fish director.

The quarantine remains in effect indefinitely and may expand or change as needed.

Sick or disabled birds should be reported and inquiries made to APHIS (915) 859-9446, (301) 734-8073, www.aphis.usda.gov or New Mexico APHIS, (505) 761-3160.