CWD Impacts Pennsylvanians Who Hunt Out-of-State

The thousands of Pennsylvania hunters who soon will be heading off to hunt big game in other states can do their share to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Commonwealth.

Those who hunt out-of-state are reminded that Pennsylvania prohibits importing specific carcass parts from members of the deer family – including mule deer, elk and moose – from 21 states and two Canadian provinces.

The parts ban affects hunters who harvest deer, elk or moose in: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland (only from CWD Management Area), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, 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 includes parts of three counties), Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Pennsylvania hunters harvesting any deer, elk or moose in those areas, whether the animal was taken from the wild or from a captive, high-fence operation, must comply with rules aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.

Those harvesting deer, elk or other cervids in the identified areas out-of-state must leave behind the carcass parts that have the highest risk for transmitting the disease. Those parts are: 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; 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.

“It’s been almost three years since chronic wasting disease first was detected in Pennsylvania , and as new cases crop up in our state, we expand our efforts to manage the disease here and do what we can to slow its spread,” Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said. “The prohibition on importing cervid parts with the highest risk of transmitting CWD is part of that management plan.

“By knowing these rules and following them, Pennsylvanians hunting out of state each can do their part to keep CWD in check in Pennsylvania,” Hough said.

Hunters who are successful in those areas from which the importation of high-risk parts into Pennsylvania is banned are allowed to import meat from any deer, elk, moose, mule deer or caribou, so long as the backbone is not present.

Successful hunters also are allowed to bring back cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue present; capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy mounts.

Hough urged hunters heading to a state with a history of CWD to become familiar with that state’s wildlife regulations and guidelines for the transportation of harvested game animals.

Pennsylvania detected chronic wasting disease in 2012 at a captive deer facility in Adams County. The disease since has been detected in free-ranging deer in Bedford and Blair counties, and in captive deer at a Jefferson County facility.

In response to these CWD cases, the Game Commission has established three Disease Management Areas (DMAs) within which special rules apply. For instance, those who harvest deer within a DMA are not allowed to transport any high-risk deer parts outside the DMA.

However, those who live in a DMA and are successful in out-of-state hunts should know that – like other Pennsylvanians hunting out-of-state – they are permitted to bring low-risk deer parts back home with them.

Hough said hunters who harvest a deer, elk or moose in a state or province where CWD is known to exist should follow instructions from that state’s wildlife agency on how and where to submit the appropriate samples to have their animal tested. If, after returning to Pennsylvania, a hunter is notified that his or her game tested positive for CWD, the hunter is encouraged to immediately contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which they reside for disposal recommendations and assistance.

A list of region offices and contact information appears on page 5 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is issued to hunters at the time they buy their Pennsylvania hunting licenses. The contact information also is available on the agency’s website ( by putting your cursor on “About Us” in the menu bar under the banner, then selecting “Regional Information” in the drop-down menu and then clicking on the region of choice in the map.

First identified in 1967, CWD affects members of the cervid family, including all species of deer, elk and moose. There’s no scientific evidence it can be transmitted to humans or traditional livestock, but it is always fatal to the cervids it infects.

There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death.

Much more information on CWD, as well as a video showing hunters how they can process venison for transport and consumption, is available at the Game Commission’s website.

Pennsylvania’s DMAs

Within Pennsylvania, there are three separate Disease Management Areas (DMAs) within which special rules apply.

DMA 1 comprises about 600 square miles in Adams and York counties; DMA 2 recently was expanded and now encompasses more than 1,600 square miles in Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Huntingdon and Fulton counties; and DMA 3 covers about 350 square miles in Jefferson and Clearfield counties.

Those harvesting deer within a DMA are not permitted to transport outside the DMA any deer parts with a high-risk of transmitting CWD. These parts include the head and backbone.

The intentional feeding of deer also is prohibited within any DMA, as is the use of urine-based deer attractants.

Maps of each of the DMAs, and detailed descriptions of DMA borders, can be found at the Game Commission’s website, The website also contains a complete list of the rules applying within DMAs, as well as a full definition of high-risk parts.

CWD precautions

Wildlife officials have suggested hunters in areas where chronic wasting disease (CWD) is known to exist follow these usual recommendations to prevent the possible spread of disease:

– Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that appears sick; contact the state wildlife agency if you see or harvest an animal that appears sick.

– Wear rubber or latex gloves when field-dressing carcasses.

– Bone out the meat from your animal.

– Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.

– Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field-dressing is completed.

– Request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal, or process your own meat if you have the tools and ability to do so.

– Have your animal processed in the endemic area of the state where it was harvested, so that high-risk body parts can be properly disposed of there. Only bring permitted materials back to Pennsylvania

– Don’t consume the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field-dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will help remove remaining lymph nodes.)

– Consider not consuming the meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease.

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