Carcass transport rules abound in the Midwest

Associate Editor

St. Paul, Minn. New rules in Minnesota regarding the transport
of big game carcasses have affected everyone from taxidermists, to
butchers, to hunters in that state returning from out-of-state deer
and elk hunts.

The changes in the law also will affect hunters from other
states, including Wisconsin, who pass through Minnesota with
harvested game on their way home from outstate hunting trips. The
rules have been prompted by chronic wasting disease. CWD a fatal
disease in deer and elk has been found in the wild in Wisconsin and
other states, but thus far, just in farmed elk in Minnesota.

“To prevent the spread of CWD into (Minnesota), Minnesota DNR
officials want hunters who travel to any other states and provinces
to hunt deer, elk, and other cervids, to avoid returning to
Minnesota with carcasses that pose a risk of containing CWD,” the
Minnesota DNR states in a press release.

According to new Minnesota law, passed by the state’s 2003
Legislature and encouraged by the Minnesota DNR, “It is now illegal
to bring back (or transport through the state) whole cervid
carcasses from animals harvested in other states. The spinal column
and all brain tissue must be removed prior to entering Minnesota.
Only cut and wrapped meat, quarters, hides, and antlers or cleaned
skull plates may enter Minnesota.”

Wisconsin has no such restriction on wild cervid carcasses, but
other neighboring states do, including Michigan and Illinois,
according to Brad Koele, assistant deer ecologist for the Wisconsin
DNR.

Michigan “prohibits importation of the carcass or carcass parts
of free-ranging deer and elk into Michigan if the carcass or parts
originated from a state or province listed in the Michigan hunting
guide as having CWD in free-ranging deer or elk, except deboned
meat, antlers, antlers attached to a skull cap cleaned of all brain
and muscle tissue, hides, and upper canine teeth; finished
taxidermy mounts or; tissue imported for use by a diagnostic or
research laboratory.”

Illinois “prohibits the importation of hunter-harvested deer and
elk carcasses into Illinois with the exception of deboned meat,
antlers, antlers attached to skull caps, upper canine teeth, and
finished taxidermist mounts.”

North Dakota now has rules in place similar to those in
Minnesota. The Minnesota law most likely would affect Wisconsin
residents returning from a hunting trip to western states or
Canada.

Reports indicate DNR conservation officers in Minnesota have
been monitoring the interstate highways near state lines for
hunters returning, or passing through, with whole cervid
carcasses.

Recently, a conservation officer in Minnesota confiscated a deer
returned to the state by a bowhunter who shot the animal in
Wisconsin.

However, Bill Spence, operations section manager for the
Minnesota DNR’s Division of Enforcement, said this year will be one
to inform those passing through the state with cervid
carcasses.

“We don’t feel it’s a big threat if someone is just driving
through on the interstate,” he said. “During this first year, we’ll
be using discretion in the way (the new law) is enforced.

“We don’t want people going ahead and ignoring the law, but
people may not know what the law says. Like all first-year laws,
we’ll spend a lot of time on information and education.”

Spence said the action by the Legislature and promoted by the
DNR is the right thing to do, given the threat of CWD.

“If we didn’t do anything, and we got the disease, people would
say, Why didn’t you do anything?’ ” he said.

The rule in Minnesota also applies to other cervid taken outside
the state, such as caribou and moose. Members of the Minnesota
Taxidermy Guild have taken their concerns to Minnesota legislators.
They say the rule is negatively affecting their business. Further,
they say, they could provide a service to wildlife officials, by
offering samples for testing.

“We could be one of their best assets,” said Jim Willard, who
owns a taxidermy shop in Brownsville, Minn., near the Iowa and
Wisconsin borders. “Educate us, but don’t cut us out of the
loop.”

Willard said hunters could do some of the preparatory work
needed for a deer or elk mount, but its normally a service provided
by taxidermists.

DNR officials in Minnesota say the state Legislature could
modify the law in the upcoming legislative session slated to begin
in January to address the concerns of taxidermists and others.

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