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Hunters going out of state for big game are cautioned about CWD

Trophy elk like this could be susceptible to CWD
Trophy elk like this could be susceptible to CWD
by Nick Hromiak

As deer and other big game hunting seasons will soon get underway in Pennsylvania, they also start elsewhere in the United States and Canada where many Keystone State hunters travel to for big-racked bucks be it deer, elk or moose. To avoid spreading chronic wasting disease, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) reminds hunters that Pennsylvania prohibits importing specific carcass parts from members of the deer family that include mule deer, elk and moose from 21 states and two Canadian provinces.

The ban affects hunters, says the PGC, who harvest deer, elk or moose from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland (only from CWD Management Areas), Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (only from Madison and Oneida counties), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area), West Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area, which contains parts of three counties), Wisconsin, Wyoming and Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The PGC says hunters harvesting any deer, elk or moose in those areas, whether they were taken from the wild or captive, high-fence areas, must comply with rules aimed at slowing the spread of CWD in Pennsylvania.

More specifically, when taking deer, elk or other cervids from the aforementioned areas, hunters should leave behind their carcass parts that have the highest risk of transmitting the disease such as the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen, skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; the cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides. But hunters may bring back cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, tanned or raw hide and taxidermy mounts, again, if none of the aforementioned CWD conditions are present.

While many of these out-of-state hunting trips can be costly, the PGC says hunters may bring back the meat from these animals provided the backbone is not present. To further reduce the risk, it’s recommended the animal be deboned and processed in the area it was taken. However, the PGC says to consider not consuming the meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease.

And although your hunting trip may have been a pricey one, it’s strongly suggested not shooting an animal with clinical signs that include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight-loss, increased thirst and excessive drooling.

If hunting out West where long shots are often taken, these signs may be difficult to see through a rifle or spotting scope.

The PGC admits that there is no scientific evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans or traditional livestock, but it’s always fatal to cervids it infects.

In this respect, Bob Danenhower, longtime Orefield taxidermist, was asked if he ever received an animal for mounting that was known to have had CWD and he said no but believes the PGC overreacts to this condition that has been around since deer have been on this earth. He believes this is the biologist’s way of obtaining federal government grant money to set up labs to do unnecessary tests and for job security. Says Danenhower, “Biologists always say CWD “may, might, may be” but can never actually prove all the things they warn about. It all boils down to natures way of culling cervids, which is and has always been cyclical.”

On anther PGC note, the agency is proposing a fee for those who use game lands and who don’t posses a valid hunting/furtakers license.

The permit, if approved, would be required for those riding bicycles, horses or snowmobiles on designated game lands trails.

Others, such as hikers or birdwatchers would be allowed to use the lands without possessing a hunting license. This exemption is based on the conclusion that these folks have low-impact on the lands and don’t cause damage to designated trails and therefore don’t require associated repair costs.

Over the years, hunters and trappers, says the PGC, shouldered the maintenance costs with game lands. And unlike state and county parks, game lands were created and maintained almost entirely with sportsmen’s dollars that is derived from the sale of hunting/trapping licenses.

In reviewing their records for the past three years, the PGC says it has spent about $230,000 on trail maintenance and signage, the latter of which are often torn down by vandals. Other monies are spent on maintaining game land roads, parking lots and other infrastructure, all of which benefit trail users.

Currently, a $30 range permit is needed when using game lands shooting ranges for those who don’t possess a valid Pennsylvania hunting/trapping license. If the new permit is adopted, the permit will be changed to a catchall, “State Game Lands Permit.”