Chronic Wasting Disease Advisories
The Advisories below constitute a history of information sent out to the public via email, fax and postal mailings regarding the Division's statements and actions relative to Chronic Wasting Disease. The purpose of this page is to provide a chronology of actions taken by the Division.
Regulations to Prevent Chronic Wasting Disease Passed by Board
ADVISORY-SEPTEMBER 2005: The Massachusetts Fisheries & Wildlife Board voted unanimously at its September 28 meeting on Martha's Vineyard to institute regulations designed to prevent Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) from entering the Commonwealth. CWD is a fatal neurological disorder known to affect white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and (just confirmed for the first time in Colorado) moose. While research continues, current information suggests that CWD is most likely caused and transmitted by an abnormal protein present in the nervous system and lymphatic tissue of infected animals. These abnormal proteins, called prions, are very stable and may persist in the environment for long periods, posing a risk to animals that come into contact with them.
While the World Health Organization has concluded that there is no evidence that people can become infected with CWD, it has the potential to decimate wild and captive deer herds. First identified in the late 1960s, it remained located in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska for about a decade. In the past several years, however, CWD has been identified in the mid-west and northeast parts if the country.
MassWildlife biologists have been sampling hunter- and car-killed deer for more than three years as part of a nationwide CWD monitoring and surveillance program. No evidence of CWD has been detected in Massachusetts deer, and as responsible stewards for all native wildlife in the state, MassWildlife has implemented strong regulations to prevent the disease from entering our borders and affecting the health of both our wild and captive deer populations. MassWildlife joined with other northeastern states to prohibit the importation of all species of live deer as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of CWD into wild or farm-raised deer. The importation prohibition was imposed by Director's emergency order in 2002, and is now a permanent regulation. It applies to all members of the deer family, including our native white-tailed deer as well as European red deer, sika deer, fallow deer and reindeer, all of which are commonly raised commercially.
On June 23 of this year, in response to recently confirmed incidents of CWD in wild white-tailed deer in New York, the Fisheries and Wildlife Board voted to approve the filing of emergency regulations relative to the importation of deer carcasses from states or Canadian provinces that have confirmed cases of CWD in deer or elk. The Board also held a public hearing on September 7th in Pittsfield to consider testimony regarding regulations relating to importation of deer meat/carcasses from other states. Based on the scientific recommendations of staff and the testimony of the public, the Board has now voted to enact regulations that make it illegal for anyone to import, process or possess whole carcasses or parts of deer or elk (from wild or captive deer herds) from states and Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected. Currently, those states/provinces are Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming, West Virginia and Wisconsin; plus Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada.
The only exception to the regulations are: meat that is deboned, cleaned skull caps, hides and taxidermy mounts. By restricting importation to these specific deer parts, the importation of neurological tissue --which is where the disease-causing prions are located -- is prevented, yet sportsmen and sportswomen hunting in "infected" states can still safely utilize any deer they harvest. Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have similar regulations in place and are consistent with regulations set or proposed to be set by other state fish and wildlife agencies bordering states with confirmed cases of Chronic Wasting Disease.
Below is a partial list of deer meat processors, provided by the NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation, located near the Massachusetts border for the convenience of Massachusetts residents hunting deer in NY.
It is illegal for anyone to import, process or possess whole carcasses or parts of deer or elk (from wild or captive deer herds) from states and Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected. The only exception to the regulations are cleaned skull caps, hides and taxidermy mounts and meat that is deboned.
- James Clough, Dutch Treat Restaurant on Rt 23, east of Craryville Ph--518/325-9800
- George Whitbeck, 172 Old Route 82, Glenco Mills, north of West Taghkanic Ph--518/851-2383
- Jay & Cherie Kreutziger, Custom Butchering, Bigelow Lane, East Nassau Ph--518/766-5738 or 518/766-4240
- Dan & Jim McCormick, Big Buck Deer Cutting, 253 Warren Cemetary Road, Pittstown, Ph--Dan @ 518/663-8397 or Jim @ 518/273-6413.
Emergency Regulations Filed in Response to Chronic Wasting Disease
ADVISORY-JUNE 2005: On June 23, 2005, in response to recently confirmed incidents of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in wild white-tailed deer in New York, the Fisheries and Wildlife Board voted to approve the filing of emergency regulations effective August 1, 2005, relative to the importation of deer carcasses from states or Canadian provinces that have confirmed cases of CWD in deer or elk. The Board will hold a Public Hearing on September 7, 2005 at the Small Theater at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield at 6:30 pm to consider testimony regarding these regulations.
Background: Chronic wasting disease is a fatal neurological disorder known to affect white-tailed deer, mule deer and elk. CWD was first identified in 1978 and remained in the states of Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska and in recent years has been found in deer populations in the western and Midwestern United States and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. According to the World Health Organization, this disease does not appear to pose a health risk to people.
On March 31, 2005, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed that adult deer from a captive herd in Oneida County, New York tested positive for CWD. CWD was later confirmed in wild deer in the same county. The CWD diagnosis in New York is the first instance of the disease detected in the northeastern United States.
Actions Taken By MassWildlife: In 2002, to minimize the risk of CWD entering the state's wild and captive deer populations, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife), along with other northeastern state fish and wildlife agencies, implemented policies to help prevent the disease from crossing borders and affecting the health of both wild and captive deer populations by prohibiting the importation of all species of live deer as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of CWD into wild or farm-raised deer. The importation prohibition applies to all members of the deer and elk species, (white-tailed deer, moose, elk, etc.) including those species raised for commercial purposes.
A surveillance and monitoring program was also developed and implemented to test for the disease as early as possible. Since 2002, over 600 brain tissue samples of hunter-harvested and roadkill deer from around the Commonwealth have been tested for CWD. There has not been any CWD detected in the over 600 samples taken in the past several years. Moreover, any observations of sick deer will be investigated for possible testing for CWD.
Inspections of licensed deer farms across the state were conducted this spring to assess conditions and compliance as well as update deer farmers about deer farming guidelines, regulations and CWD.
Summary of Proposed Regulations: The proposed regulations would make it illegal for anyone to import or possess whole carcasses or parts of deer or elk (from wild or captive deer herds) from states and Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected with the following exceptions: meat that is deboned, cleaned skull caps, hides and taxidermy mounts. This action prevents importation of neurological tissue which is where the disease is found. Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have similar regulations in place and are consistent with regulations set or proposed to be set by other state fish and wildlife agencies bordering states with confirmed cases of Chronic Wasting Disease.
Precaution Taken To Prevent the Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease--Spring 2002
ADVISORY-APRIL 2002: MassWildlife has joined with other northeastern states to prohibit the importation of all species of deer. This is a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) into wild or farm-raised deer. The importation prohibition takes effect immediately and applies to European red deer, sika deer, fallow deer and reindeer, all species commonly raised commercially. The farming or importation of white-tailed deer, elk or moose was not permitted prior to the newly-enacted restrictions.
CWD has been diagnosed in captive deer and elk herds in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. It has been confirmed in wild deer populations in Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois, Utah, New Mexico and the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan. There are no known cases of the disease in Massachusetts.
Massachusetts' action follows deer importation bans in New York and Vermont as well as a resolution passed by the Association of Northeastern U.S. Fish & Wildlife Agency Directors. CWD is a relatively new disease and is not fully understood. It is a brain disease related to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, also known as "Mad Cow Disease". CWD appears to be caused by an abnormal protein called a prion that occurs in the brain of affected deer. It can be spread by close contact between animals, and animals exposed to CWD-contaminated environments. Afflicted animals become gaunt, wasting away until death. There is no known transmission link of CWD from deer to humans.
"By banning the import of deer into Massachusetts, we can reduce the risk of Chronic Wasting Disease entering the state and help prevent our wild deer population from being exposed to this deadly threat," states MassWildlife Deer Project Leader Bill Woytek.
Dr. Robert Deblinger, Assistant Director for Wildlife Research adds, "We are in a strong position in Massachusetts because the Fisheries & Wildlife Board passed extremely restrictive regulations regarding deer farming some six years ago. Consequently, deer farming is a limited venture in Massachusetts, with about 20 deer farms statewide that are not allowed to import or possess white-tailed deer or elk.
MassWildlife is working on a CWD monitoring system and is developing strategies for long-term management of the problem, including evaluating the efforts of other states.
For additional information on Chronic Wasting Disease or the prohibition on importation of deer, contact Bill Woytek (508-389-6300) or Dr. Robert Deblinger (508-389-6300), at MassWildlife's Field Headquarters in Westboro.