During the last century, state and Provincial fish and wildlife agencies, with the support of hunters, restored the white-tailed deer to a condition of abundance.
With careful management, hunters throughout the Northeast have enjoyed the rich traditions associated with deer hunting. These include valued time hunting with friends and family, outdoor activity, memories of hunting camp, and fresh venison, among many other values associated with deer and deer hunting.
These memories and traditions are threatened by a serious and fatal disease: chronic wasting disease or “CWD.” This disease now occurs in 25 states and four Canadian provinces, most recently in Quebec less than 100 miles from the Vermont border. We know from our telemetry project that Maine white-tailed deer range into Quebec in the summer months.
CWD is readily spread from deer to deer. It wears a deer down and eventually kills every infected animal. CWD is always fatal –there is no treatment, no vaccine, and no resistance. Without action by hunters and state and provincial fish and wildlife agencies, CWD will continue to spread. Left unchecked, CWD will do irreparable harm to deer herds throughout New England, including Maine.
CWD is transmitted from deer‐to‐deer or from environmental contamination. The prions (the infectious particles) bind to soil and are known to last for at least 16 years. Deer shed prions in urine, feces, and saliva and are found in infected carcasses long after the animal dies. Infected animals can start shedding prions nearly a year before showing clinical signs of the disease. CWD is virtually impossible to eradicate once established in the wild. It is widely viewed as one of the most significant challenges in the history of modern wildlife conservation. CWD is also carried in other members of the deer family, including elk, caribou, moose, and domestic cervids.
If established in Maine, CWD may have devastating impacts on the state’s deer and moose herds, our hunting heritage, and Maine’s economy.
Given the recent discovery of CWD in Quebec, MDIFW has adopted an emergency rule that prohibits the importation of cervid (e.g. deer, elk, moose, and caribou) carcasses and certain cervid parts from all jurisdictions except New Hampshire. The rule also prohibits the temporary importation of cervid carcasses and parts that are in-transit through Maine to another jurisdiction. Hunters may still import boned-out meat, hardened antlers, finished taxidermy mounts, and other parts with a low risk of containing CWD material.
While the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is taking all appropriate measures to prevent the spread of CWD into Maine, we can’t succeed without your help. Here’s what you can do:
1. Do not use urine-based deer lures or scents. CWD can be introduced into the soil with these scents and lures and lay dormant for years before infecting a deer herd. Many, if not all these products are derived from CAPTIVE deer, where the risk of CWD is greatest. These items can still be sold in Maine, but it is important that everyone take measures to reduce or eliminate the spread of these materials in our environment. Synthetic lures are as effective, and eliminate the risk of CWD.
2. Follow Maine’s regulations that require harvested deer, moose, or elk from any state or provinces (other than New Hampshire) to be deboned prior to crossing into Maine. CWD is carried in the brain and spinal cord of infected deer. It is vitally important that these parts are not transported across state and provincial boundaries. This means you should have your deer processed commercially before you move it across a state or provincial boundary, or you should bone out a deer (removing the head and all bones) after you have complied with state and provincial regulations for bringing your deer to a check station.
3. Report deer that appear sick, weak, or starving to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife so that the animal can be tested for CWD. One of the most important ways of stopping the spread of CWD is early detection. Your reports of potentially sick deer are critically important to our disease monitoring efforts!
4. Avoid feeding deer and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. Feeding artificially concentrates deer, creating conditions that can increase the risk of CWD transmission. Feeding also attracts deer from long distances, increasing the likelihood of the disease becoming established in Maine.
5. Be familiar with and follow all laws regarding the transport of deer carcasses (both wild and captive). Be sure to check all the legal requirements of the provinces and states where you hunt or transport your deer. As a hunter, you are personally responsible for following all applicable laws and regulations, including those pertaining to the transport of deer and/or deer parts across state and provincial borders. Contact your local wildlife agency for those details.