Ban proposed on transporting deer, elk carcasses to curb CWD

Nick Lowrey, South Dakota News Watch photo: With the recent discovery of the easternmost case of Chronic Wasting Disease in South Dakota, state officials are embarking on a new plan to control the contagious brain illness that kills deer and elk and is threatening the state's multi-million dollar hunting industry.

FORT PIERRE (AP) – A new proposal would ban transporting deer and elk carcasses in some parts of South Dakota to help slow the spread of chronic wasting disease.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Commission on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to the most restrictive options presented to the commissioners for transporting mule deer, whitetail deer and elk carcasses into and around South Dakota.

A final decision is expected by the commission in September. If approved, the restrictions would go into effect on July 1, 2020, the Argus Leader reported.

Chronic wasting disease, which strikes the nervous system in deer, elk and moose and is fatal to the animal, has been found in free-ranging deer and elk in southwestern South Dakota. Staff urged the commission to adopt the most restrictive options to slow the disease’s spread to the rest of the state.

Wildlife program administrator Chad Switzer said if a hunter transports an infected carcass home and then disposes of it in a slough or shelter belt, the protein that causes the disease can spread to deer or elk in an area that previously was not infected.

Officials don’t know how prevalent chronic wasting disease is in South Dakota, but projections based on other states’ research are “not looking so rosy,” Switzer said. Not much is known about the disease, but the more that’s learned, the “scarier” it gets, he said.

“It should be a huge concern for you as a commissioner and members of our public that like to hunt, view and watch deer and elk in South Dakota, and we need to not look at our time right now, but how does this look 30, 50 years down the road?” he said.

Under the proposed restrictions, a hunter who harvests a deer in an area of South Dakota where CWD is endemic would have to bone out the deer or only take quarters of meat home and find a taxidermist in that area for a mount instead of bringing the entire carcass home.

Whole carcasses and high-risk parts such as the head, brain and spinal column could not be brought into South Dakota from any other state and could not be transported out of CWD endemic areas in South Dakota. Cut and wrapped meat; quarters of meat without a spinal column or head attached; antlers, hides or teeth; finished taxidermy mounts; and antlers attached to skull caps that are cleaned of all brain tissue could still be transported.

Hunters also would have to dispose of all remaining carcass parts with a waste management provider or permitted landfill once non-commercial meat processing or taxidermy is complete, unless the carcass tests negative for CWD. Violations would be a misdemeanor.


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