Maine wildlife officials on Thursday implemented an emergency rule designed to protect Maine’s deer herd after a case of chronic wasting disease was found in a captive deer in Quebec.
An exemption that allowed deer carcasses from Quebec and other provinces to be imported into Maine has been eliminated, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The new rule makes it illegal to bring deer carcasses or parts into the state except in the following manner:
— Boned out meat, properly identified and labeled;
— Hardened antlers;
— Skull caps with or without antlers attached that have been cleaned of brain and other tissues;
— Capes and hides with no skull attached;
— Finished taxidermy mounts.
The rule also prohibits the import into Maine of deer carcasses and parts that are being hauled through Maine to Canadian provinces and other states, except New Hampshire.
Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, moose and other cervids, including caribou and elk. It has not been detected in deer in New Hampshire or Maine, although it has turned up in New York. Earlier this year, it was found in one deer in a captive herd just north of Montreal.
“Chronic Wasting Disease is the most serious threat facing our deer and moose populations in modern times,” DIF&W commissioner Chandler Woodcock said in a statement. “Unchecked, this disease could devastate Maine’s deer and moose populations and ravage Maine’s hunting and wildlife-watching communities.”
Research shows the disease is caused by a mutated protein called a prion, which can be shed in saliva, blood, urine, feces, antler velvet and body fat, according to the wildlife department. There is no cure nor treatment for the disease.
The department is urging hunters to help halt the spread of the disease by following these guidelines:
— Do not use urine-based deer lures or scents. Chronic wasting disease 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, of these products are derived from captive deer, where the risk of infection is greatest. While currently legal, avoid using these products in order to protect Maine’s moose and deer herd.
— Follow the laws and rules regarding the importation of harvested deer, moose, or elk from any state or provinces (other than New Hampshire). The disease 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.
— Report deer that appear sick, weak or starving to the Maine wildlife department so the animal can be tested for chronic wasting disease. Early detection is the key in stopping its spread.
— Avoid feeding deer and encourage friends and neighbors to do the same. Feeding artificially concentrates deer, creating conditions that increase the risk of disease transmission. Feeding also attracts deer from long distances, increasing the likelihood of the disease becoming established in Maine.
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