A new regulation governing importation of cervid carcasses into Louisiana will go into effect March 1, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) announced. The regulation was passed by the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission (LWFC) in the fall of 2016 and aims to prevent the introduction of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Louisiana’s white-tailed deer population.
The regulation reads in part: No person shall import, transport or possess any cervid carcass or part of a cervid carcass originating outside of Louisiana, except: for meat that is cut and wrapped; meat that has been boned out; quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, antlers, clean skull plates with antlers, cleaned skulls without tissue attached, capes, tanned hides, finished taxidermy mounts and cleaned cervid teeth. …Any and all bones shall be disposed of in a manner where its final destination is at an approved landfill or equivalent. Said rule shall be effective March 1, 2017.
The ban defines a cervid as animals of the family Cervidae, including but not limited to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, fallow deer, axis deer, sika deer, red deer and reindeer.
This ban is strictly for the purpose of reducing the likelihood that CWD will enter Louisiana through carcass importation. Approved parts and meat from other states must contain a possession tag with the hunter’s name, out-of-state license number (if required), address, species, date and location (county and state) of harvest. Each state has different possession requirements for game once processed.
CWD is a neurodegenerative disease found in most deer species, including moose, elk and mule deer as well as white-tailed deer. It is infectious and always fatal. It’s part of a group of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) and is similar to BSE (mad cow disease) of cattle and scrapie in sheep. These diseases cause irreversible damage to brain tissue which leads to death of the animal.
CWD is caused by prions, which are proteins normally found in the body that have mutated. These prions kill nerve cells and cause holes to develop in the brain tissue. They are spread through direct deer-to-deer contact or through contact with urine, feces, saliva and body parts of infected deer or infectious materials in the soil. It’s most commonly found in deer pens and captive facilities.
It is different from hemorrhagic disease (epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus and/ or bluetongue virus), which is a virus spread by bites from infected insects.
Deer infected with CWD can spread the disease even before symptoms develop. It can take one to two years for infected animals to become symptomatic. When symptoms appear they can include emaciation, lethargy, abnormal behavior and loss of bodily functions. Other signs include excessive salivation, loss of appetite, progressive weight loss, excessive thirst and urination, teeth grinding and drooping ears.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) there is no evidence that CWD can infect humans. However, the CDCP recommends caution in handling venison in the infected region and that deer be tested for CWD before consuming.
CWD has been documented in 23 states, including Texas and Arkansas, and two Canadian provinces.