California Emergency Action Affects Big Game Hunters
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Emergency action taken by the California Fish and Game Commission last week will require hunters to follow strict guidelines for bringing deer and elk meat into California.

These safety guidelines are in place to minimize the chance of spreading Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) to California elk and deer herds, said Sonke Mastrup, deputy director of the California Department of Fish and Game's (DFG) Wildlife and Fisheries Division.

To reduce the threat of CWD, the regulation restricts the importation of hunter harvested deer and elk meat, to boned meat or processed cuts of meat, hides, and heads that have no part of the spinal column or brain attached, carcasses that are submitted to a certified meat processor for processing within 72 hours, and heads that are submitted to a taxidermist within 72 hours.

According to Mastrup their currently is no scientific evidence that the disease can be spread through this means but he still supports the ban because one would hate to find out later otherwise.

CWD is a neurological disease that is fatal to deer and elk. It has been found in wild deer and elk in limited areas of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Dakota and New Mexico. CWD has also been identified in farmed elk in Colorado, Minnesota, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Although its method of transmission is not fully understood, disease experts believe CWD is passed through direct animal-to-animal contact, however, environmental contamination could also be involved. Wildlife officials in those states have attempted to limit further spread of the disease.

CWD has not been found in California. California is considered a "low risk" state because of its long-term ban on the importation of live elk, prohibition on elk farming, and its strict monitoring of live deer importations. Nevertheless, the DFG has been conducting a CWD surveillance program since 1999 and will continue to monitor wild deer populations.

While the emergency regulations restrict the importation of hunter-harvested deer and elk carcasses, the following body parts are allowed:

• Boned-out meat and commercially processed cuts of meat.
• Portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.
• Hides with no heads attached.
• Clean skull plates (no meat or tissue attached) with antlers attached.
• Antlers with no meat or tissue attached.
• Heads for taxidermy can be transported into the state only if they are submitted to a taxidermist within 72 hours of entry. Taxidermist shall dispose of brain, spinal cord and other discarded tissue in a landfill approved for carcass disposal.
• Finished taxidermy heads.
• Upper canine teeth (buglers, whistlers, ivories).
• Carcasses or parts of carcasses with the spinal column or head attached may be transported into the state only if they are submitted to a certified meat processor for processing within 72 hours of entry; certified meat processors shall not split the spinal column and shall dispose of the brain, spinal cord and other discarded portions in a landfill approved for carcass disposal.

Epidemiologists with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta have studied CWD and found no link between it and any neurological disease that affects humans. However, it is suggested that hunters follow simple precautions when hunting:

• Wear rubber gloves when field dressing carcasses.
• Minimize the handling of brain and spinal cord, eyes, spleen and lymph nodes and avoid consuming these tissues.
• Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field dressing is completed.

CWD is related to Mad Cow Disease and to scrapie, which affects sheep. Ongoing studies suggest that CWD is unlikely to naturally infect species other than deer or elk.

Californians who plan to hunt out-of-state should decide in advance how they will process their deer and elk. Some professional meat processors may begin requiring that the carcass be tested for CWD before they will accept it. "We are working with commercial meat processors to make sure they understand how the new regulation will affect them," said Dr. Pam Swift, a wildlife veterinarian for the DFG. "Many of them are working on their own guidelines for safe handling of out-of-state deer carcasses which could significantly affect hunters."

For more information about CWD, visit the DFG web site at,, or contact DFG headquarters at 916-653-6420 to request a brochure.

Read how some other readers feel about CWD by clicking cwd reader response.

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