New law will target chronic wasting disease COLUMBIA – A new state regulation, designed to prevent chronic wasting disease from breaking out in South Carolina among herds of deer and elk, will ban hunters from importing certain carcass parts taken from states with diagnosed cases of the disease.

The new regulations are prompted by an effort to protect deer and the hunters, said Charles Ruth, the deer project coordinator for the state Natural Resources Department.

The agency’s board approved the emergency regulation on Aug. 15 to protect deer hunting, which brings in more than $200 million a year to South Carolina, Ruth said.

Ruth says hunters can still bring game they catch elsewhere into South Carolina since it is usually processed in the state where it was harvested.

Chronic wasting disease is one of the family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease, Ruth said. The disease attacks an animal’s central nervous system.

Symptoms include extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, odd behavior and poor coordination.

It is always fatal to deer and elk and has an incubation period of up to five years. No current test exists to uncover the disease in live animals, according the department.

Hunters traveling to states with confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease are banned from bringing whole carcasses or parts of the animals that include nervous tissue like the brain or spinal column.

The Natural Resources Department says states and areas with cases of the disease include Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The disease hasn’t been documented in South Carolina or other Southeastern states. But caution is needed because the agent that causes the disease can stay active in the environment in materials like soil for some time.

“If hunters dispose of these carcass parts in South Carolina, then the disease agent may infect deer in the local area,” Ruth said.