Chronic Waste Disease Rules Amended

Deer carcasses again can be imported from most of Ohio, Maryland, New York, Virginia or West Virginia

Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission News Release
Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

Harrisburg, PA -( The Pennsylvania Game Commission is pulling back the ban that prohibited hunters from transporting into Pennsylvania the carcasses of deer, elk and other cervids harvested anywhere in the states of Maryland, New York, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia.

The amended rules prohibit the importation only of cervid carcasses harvested within the areas in those states where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected. In other states and Canadian provinces where CWD has been detected, the importation ban applies to the entire state.

The whole-state ban on the importation into Pennsylvania of high-risk cervid parts – essentially the head and backbone – was announced Nov. 2.

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the whole-state ban was enacted to allow for better enforcement of rules regarding the importation of high-risk cervid parts to protect Pennsylvania’s wild deer.

With deer seasons already in progress, however, Hough said the timing of the announcement resulted in confusion and concerns being expressed deer hunters, processors and taxidermists. Responding to those concerns, the agency today pulled back the whole-state ban for this deer season, and will work with those who are affected on further rule changes that might become effective next year, Hough said.

“The introduction and spread of CWD in our wild-deer population remains a serious issue, and we will continue to regularly review and adjust all measures to minimize the impacts of CWD in Pennsylvania as necessary,” Hough said.

Now that the order has been amended, there are a total of 22 states and two Canadian provinces from which high-risk cervid parts cannot be imported into Pennsylvania.

The parts ban affects hunters who harvest deer, elk, moose, mule deer and other cervids in: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland (only from Allegany County), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (only from Madison and Oneida counties), North Dakota, Ohio (only from Holmes County), Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia (only from Frederick, Shenandoah, Warren and Clarke counties), West Virginia (only from Hampshire, Hardy and Morgan counties), Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Those harvesting cervids in the identified states, counties and provinces must leave behind the carcass parts that have the highest risk for transmitting CWD. 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.

Hunters who are successful in those states and provinces 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.

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

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 2015-16 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 Colorado in 1967, CWD affects members of the cervid family, including all species of deer, elk and moose. To date, no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans has been reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the disease is always fatal to the cervids it infects.

As a precaution, CDC recommends people avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD.

More information on CWD can be found at CDC’s website,

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 2,400 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 or possession of urine-based deer attractants in any outdoor setting.

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 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.)
  • Follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations and avoid eating meat from any animal that looks sick or tests positive for the disease.

About Pennsylvania Game Commission:

For more than 100 years, the Game Commission has managed the Commonwealth’s wildlife resources for all Pennsylvanians. With the help of more than 700 full-time employees and thousands of part-timers and volunteers, the agency provides a host of benefits to wildlife, state residents and visitors.

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