Prohibiting chronic wasting disease from entering Georgia is a continuous effort. This fatal disease attacks the nervous system of cervids (e.g. deer, elk and moose) and to date has been detected in 15 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. With big game hunting seasons underway across much of the nation, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division advises resident hunters planning out-of-state hunting trips to become familiar with Georgia’s current regulations regarding cervid importation.
“The potential introduction of CWD poses a serious threat to Georgia’s economically and culturally valuable white-tailed deer resource,” explains the division’s Assistant Chief of Game Management John Bowers. “We encourage hunters to be knowledgeable of current regulations restricting importation of certain cervid carcass parts harvested from known CWD-infected states and prohibiting the importation of live cervids.”
CWD is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. Infected animals develop a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brain, which results in extreme weight loss, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and eventually, death. CWD belongs to a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) – the same group of diseases affecting some domestic animals, including bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or “mad cow disease.” Currently, there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk for humans.
Though scientific investigations are ongoing, current research suggests that the agent responsible for the disease may be spread both directly (animal to animal contact) and indirectly (soil or other surface to animal).
Because the movement of live animals is evidenced as one of the greatest risk factors associated with the spread of CWD into new areas, resident hunters traveling abroad should note the following:
- Importation of any live cervid is prohibited.
- Importation of any whole cervid carcass or carcass parts from any state with a documented CWD case is prohibited except: boned-out meat; commercially processed meat; meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; clean skull plates with antlers attached; clean antlers; finished taxidermy heads; and clean upper canines (buglers, whistlers, ivories)
The 15 states and two Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected include the most recently affected state of Michigan and also Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Since 1998, the division has been testing suspect and hunter-harvested deer for evidence of CWD. To date, more than 3,000 deer have been tested with no confirmed positives. The states nearest to Georgia with a confirmed case of CWD are Illinois and West Virginia. Georgia hunters play an important role in the collective effort to minimize the introduction of CWD into Georgia’s high-quality deer herd. Hunters are encouraged to protect wildlife resources by reporting the illegal importation of any cervid species.
For more information, look to the division’s Web site at www.gohuntgeorgia.com; select “Hunting,” “Game Management” and “Chronic Wasting Disease.” The site offers helpful information for sportsmen and women, meat processors and taxidermists alike.
Any hunter who observes or harvests a deer in Georgia that exhibits CWD symptoms should immediately call the local regional WRD office, local conservation ranger or contact the TIP hotline at (800) 241-4113.
For more information about CWD in Georgia and abroad, or for general information regarding deer hunting in Georgia, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com or call (770) 918-6416