September 10, 2013 - The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reminds hunters that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) continues to pose a potential threat to New York's wild white-tailed deer herd, and hunters should take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Late last year, CWD was found on a deer farm in Pennsylvania and in early 2013, CWD was confirmed in Pennsylvania's wild white-tailed deer herd.
"Preventing the introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease into New York is vital to protecting our deer herds and is a high priority for DEC," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "DEC's deer management and outreach efforts work to ensure the health of New York's deer herd and to protect the recreational and viewing opportunities deer provide. The most effective way to protect New York's deer herd is to keep CWD infectious material out of the state and hunters can play an important role in this effort."
CWD is a highly contagious and deadly brain and nervous system disease that affects deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family. CWD is always fatal and there are no vaccines or treatment available. The agent that causes the disease is called a prion and it is virtually indestructible. Prions are found in the lymph nodes, brain and spinal tissues of infected animals, which can shed (spread) prions in their urine, saliva, and feces. Also, certain parts of dead animals remain infectious on the landscape and in the soil for many years. There is no evidence that CWD can infect humans, but DEC urges caution when handling or processing CWD susceptible animals.
Individuals who hunt deer, elk or moose outside of New York should be familiar with New York's CWD regulation (6 NYCRR Part 189) regarding the importation of cervid carcasses and meat back into New York before returning home. It is illegal to bring in whole carcasses from any CWD susceptible animal taken at a shooting preserve or to bring in whole carcasses from any state or province that has had CWD confirmed in wild or captive cervid herds. It is also illegal to ship the unprocessed trophy head from those preserves or CWD positive states or provinces. It is legal to import finished mounted heads, however. A person may only bring back the meat, hide and antlers, and certain parts must be removed before entering New York. A full list of prohibited parts can be found on DEC's website.
Before leaving to hunt out-of-state:
- Know the CWD status of the state or province you plan to hunt in since it can change at any time. For example, four additional states became CWD positive in 2012 (Iowa, Michigan, Missouri, and Pennsylvania).
- If caught in possession of an illegal carcass with the prohibited parts in New York, the carcass will be confiscated and destroyed (including antlers, hide and meat).
- Know if the state or province you hunt in requires CWD samples to be submitted after harvest and before you return home.
- Plan accordingly for how to handle an animal if your hunt is successful.
- Locate meat processors in the state or province where you are hunting ahead of time so you can get your carcass processed quickly and legally before returning to New York.
- If you decide to process your own animals, de-boning or quartering deer, elk or moose is easy if you plan ahead and have proper equipment. You can find "how to" videos on the internet before you go hunting.
- If you intend to have a trophy mounted, you will need to know how to prepare the hide, cape and antlers to eliminate potentially infectious CWD material.
- Proper handling of wild meat and the trophy will eliminate all the prohibited parts required by New York's CWD regulation.
DEC recommends that hunters dispose of any cervid carcass waste, even from New York deer, into a proper waste stream either by putting butcher scrap in with household trash or otherwise ensuring it ends up in a licensed landfill. Landowners may dispose of their own deer on their property, but it is illegal in all cases for deer cutters (meat processors/butchers) and taxidermists to dispose of waste generated from their business in any way other than a landfill or rendering facility.
DEC also recommends that people not use real deer urine-based lures because CWD can be transmitted through infected deer urine. Deer urine, used in commercial lures or scents, originates from captive deer on deer farms. In many cases, the urine from multiple deer farms is combined for commercial use. If there are CWD prions in the urine-based product it can contaminate the soil and potentially spread CWD to deer in that hunting area. If healthy animals ingest enough infectious CWD material, it could result in the establishment or spread of the disease. There are proven synthetic deer lure alternatives available on the market.
Every year hunters in New York are found in possession of deer or other cervid carcasses taken out-of-state. Many of these were imported illegally. Bringing in animals from CWD positive states or provinces and discarding the scrap on the landscape increases the risk that CWD will become re-established in New York.
This disease threatens the deer herd for every hunter and could jeopardize the quality of the hunting experience forever. In some states where the disease is well established, deer herds are experiencing infection rates as high as 50 percent in older age bucks and nearly 30 percent in the overall herd. New York is fortunate that CWD was not verified in any additional deer since the initial discovery in Oneida County in 2005. DEC remains vigilant about keeping CWD out of the state and continues to monitor the latest science about the disease to help keep New York's herds healthy.