States such as Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, Texas, and Missouri attract thousands of out of state big game hunters each season, but Alabama residents hunting in other states need to be aware of a regulation that prohibits the importation of certain deer parts into Alabama from other states and Canadian provinces.
Some of the nation’s best white-tailed deer, mule deer, and elk hunting occurs in states where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been found. CWD is a fatal neurological disease of white-tailed deer and other deer species, including mule deer, elk, and moose. It is caused by a mutated protein called a prion. The disease is infectious, communicable, and always fatal for white-tailed deer. CWD is insidious and has a minimum incubation period of 17 months. This means infected animals may not shows signs of exposure for years.
There are two primary sources of exposure to CWD for uninfected deer: 1) CWD infected deer, and 2) CWD contaminated environment. Since CWD has not been found in Alabama to date, the most likely way for it to arrive is through the importation of live deer, whole carcasses, or certain deer body parts from CWD positive areas. Once CWD arrives, infected individuals on the landscape serve as a reservoir for prions which will be shed into the environment. Prions are shed from infected animals in saliva, urine, blood, soft-antler material, and feces. There are no known management strategies to mitigate the risk of indirect transmission of CWD once an environment has been contaminated with infectious prions. This makes eradication of CWD very difficult, if not impossible.
In an effort to prevent the movement of CWD into Alabama, laws and regulations limiting or prohibiting the movement of live deer, whole carcasses, and certain body parts into Alabama are in place. It has been illegal for decades for live deer to be imported in to Alabama. It also is now illegal for hunters to bring whole carcasses and certain body parts of any members of the family Cervidae (deer) into Alabama from CWD positive states. This includes, but is not limited to, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, and caribou. Parts that may be legally imported include completely deboned meat; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides.
Many other states, including Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennessee, have similar rules and regulations on deer carcass importation, so Alabama hunters hunting out of state need to make sure to prepare the meat, hide, and antlers for transport before leaving their hunting location. Hunters transporting the prohibited parts through these other states on the way back to Alabama run the risk of arrest before ever reaching their home state.
To avoid problems when transporting hunter-killed deer from CWD positive areas, keep these things in mind:
- Twenty-four U.S. states and two Canadian provinces are currently CWD positive. These include Alberta, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Saskatchewan, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
- Importation of certain deer body parts from CWD positive states and provinces into Alabama is illegal.
- Only completely deboned meat; cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides may be brought into Alabama from CWD positive states.
- Some states prohibit the importation of these same deer parts from ANY state or province, whether they are CWD positive or not.
- Alabama hunters going out of state should check the regulations of their destination states regarding handling and tagging of carcasses before preparing their deer for transport back to Alabama.
To be as safe as possible and decrease their potential risk of exposure to CWD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend hunters in CWD positive areas take the following precautions:
- Do not shoot, handle or eat meat from deer and elk that look sick or are acting strangely or are found dead (road-kill).
- When field-dressing a deer:
- Wear latex or rubber gloves when dressing the animal or handling the meat.
- Minimize how much you handle the organs of the animal, particularly the brain or spinal cord tissues.
- Do not use household knives or other kitchen utensils for field dressing.
- Disinfect knives and butchering equipment by soaking in a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach and water after field dressing a deer.
- Check state wildlife and public health guidance to see whether testing of animals is recommended or required. Recommendations vary by state, but information about testing is available from many state wildlife agencies.
- Strongly consider having the deer or elk tested for CWD before you eat the meat.
- If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, consider asking that your animal be processed individually to avoid mixing meat from multiple animals.
- If your animal tests positive for CWD, do not eat meat from that animal.
A map showing the states and counties where CWD has been identified can be found at: https://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/images/cwd/cwd_map.jpg