HELENA — The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission unanimously approved a preliminary rule that would ban the importation of deer and elk carcasses into the state from places where chronic wasting disease has been reported.

The new rule, which the commission is expected to make final in August, is designed to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease, an unusual brain-wasting disease of deer and elk that has hit some states hard.

Montana has never found a case of the disease in the wild, although a deer at a game farm near Philipsburg tested positive for the disease in 1999. The rule applies deer and elk shot in any state or country where chronic wasting has been confirmed in the wild.

It forbids the importation of any deer and elk part into the state except meat that is cut and wrapped; portions of uncut meat with no part of the spinal cord or head attached; meat that has been deboned; hides with the heads removed; antlers and a small part of the skull connecting the antlers with no meat or tissue attached; clean antlers; the back teeth of elk known as “ivories” or “buglers” that are used in making jewelry; a mounted head or stuffed animal.

The commission made just one change to the rule that Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff proposed. Commissioners agreed to let hunters bring in an entire carcass if they can prove it doesn’t have CWD.

“I’m pleased to see it,” said Larry Copenhaver with the Montana Wildlife Federation, which had backed a similar bill in the 2003 Legislature.

So far, the commission has not laid out what punishment for violating the new rule might be.

The public is invited to comment on the idea for the next two months.

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