Importing deer, elk parts limited by SC regulations

With big game seasons opening in many Western states, hunters traveling abroad are reminded not to import into South Carolina certain carcass parts from deer and elk harvested in states with chronic wasting disease.

To protect the state’s extremely valuable white-tailed deer resource, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has maintained a regulation restricting the importation of certain carcass parts from deer and elk harvested in states with diagnosed cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD), according to Charles Ruth, DNR Deer and Wild Turkey Program coordinator in Columbia.

“Currently, deer hunting generates more than $200 million annually for South Carolina’s economy,” he said, “and deer are the most-sought game species in the state, in addition to being the official state game animal.”

This measure was taken so resident hunters who travel to other states to hunt will not bring potentially diseased carcass parts to South Carolina.

“The regulation will not keep hunters from importing harvested game since most game taken outside of South Carolina is processed in the state where it was harvested,” Ruth said.

Chronic wasting disease is one in the family of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies and is similar to mad cow disease, according to Ruth. The disease attacks the central nervous system of the deer or elk and presents symptoms including extreme weight loss, excessive salivation, odd behavior and poor coordination. The disease is infectious, communicable and always fatal to deer and elk, but perhaps the biggest stumbling blocks for wildlife professionals is that chronic wasting disease has a prolonged incubation period–up to five years–and no approved test exists to detect the disease in live animals. Diagnosis requires examination of the brain. Although wildlife health officials are conducting considerable research, the overall biological and epidemiological understanding of chronic wasting disease remains poor.

According to the state regulation, hunters traveling to states with confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease should only bring the following carcass parts into South Carolina: Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached; meat that has been boned out; hides with no heads attached; clean (no meat or tissue attached) skulls or skull plates with antlers attached; antlers (detached from the skull plate); clean upper canine teeth, also called “buglers,” “whistlers” or “ivories;” and finished taxidermy heads.

Hunters should not import whole carcasses or parts of deer or elk that contain nervous tissue like the brain or spinal column. Hunters traveling elsewhere should check with the wildlife agency in their destination state to determine its CWD status and to determine what restrictions the state may have on the movement of carcasses. States where CWD has been diagnosed include Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

DNR is asking resident hunters who travel to other states to follow these restrictions when bringing certain carcass parts into South Carolina, Ruth said. Good evidence exists that the CWD agent can remain viable in the environment, in the soil for example. This has been demonstrated at research facilities where the disease was present in deer or elk. The diseased animals were removed, and the facilities underwent complete disinfecting and no animals were present for an extended period of time. Once animals were returned to the facility, they became infected with CWD.

“This is precisely the reason that DNR is asking hunters not to bring certain parts of carcasses to South Carolina when they hunt in states where CWD has been diagnosed,” Ruth said. “If hunters dispose of these carcass parts in South Carolina then the disease agent may infect deer in the local area.”

South Carolina’s DNR is following the lead of a number of states in letting hunters know how they can help fight the spread of CWD, according to Ruth.

For more information on chronic wasting disease, see the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance website at: