New CWD regs hit business

Waverly, N.Y — Each year, thousands of New York hunters cross the border into Pennsylvania for the Keystone State’s traditional Monday-after-Thanksgiving firearms deer season opener.

This year, they won’t be able to bring their deer back across the border, forced instead to take them to meat processors and taxidermists in Pennsylvania or butcher them on their own before returning home.

New York issued emergency regulations in response to the discovery of chronic wasting disease in a captive deer in southern Pennsylvania, that state’s first case of CWD. Those regulations prohibit New York hunters from bringing their Pa.-killed whitetails across the border intact.

It’s a ruling that will cause some headaches for New York hunters who tag a deer in Pennsylvania – and a huge economic hit for taxidermists and meat processors along the border on its New York side.

“For me, it’s really about 50-50 as far as Pennsylvania and New York deer,” said Scott Benjamin of Mountain Man Taxidermy in Waverly (Tioga County). “I take in about 120 mounts a year, so there’s 60 mounts I won’t get. And I process 400 deer, so that’s 200 deer out of my pocket.

“It will crush my business by about 50 percent, and there’s nothing I can do to prepare for it.”

What’s doubly frustrating for taxidermists and meat processors aware of the new regulations is that the CWD finding came in the southern portion of Pennsylvania – New Oxford, Pa., (in Adams County), which is much closer to the Maryland and West Virginia borders than New York. And it involved a captive deer and not a wild whitetail.

“It’s like taking a shower with a raincoat on,” said Joe Siperek of Siperek’s Deer Shop, a father-son operation in Lakewood (Chautauqua County). “It makes no sense. You’ve got some people in Albany making decisions they have no business making.

“Will it affect our business. Sure. But to what extent I wouldn’t venture a guess.”

Siperek said in past seasons he and his son have processed about 200 deer, many of which were taken in western Pennsylvania by New York hunters.

DEC, in a news release issued last month announcing the emergency regulations, downplayed any impact on New York taxidermists and meat processors who operate along the 225-mile border of Pennsylvania and New York.

“Most successful hunters already opt to butcher a deer and put the meat in a cooler before traveling back to New York,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in the news release in which he called the regulations “necessary to protect New York’s populations of deer and moose.”

DEC officials were scrambling to get the regulations news out to hunters, since Pennsylvania’s archery deer season has been under way for over a month and many New York hunters cross the border for that season.

Siperek said last month he wasn’t aware of the regulation which, effective immediately, prohibits importing certain parts (including the brain, eyes and spinal cord) of deer or elk taken in  Pennsylvania.

“I don’t know what options the hunters have,” Benjamin said of hunters looking to have their Pa.-killed deer mounted. “They can cape it out themselves (before bringing it across the border to a New York taxidermist), but how many hunters know how to do that?”

Siperek said about half his business involves processing deer that are donated to the New York Venison Donation Coalition. Some of those are killed in Pennsylvania, “so they could see fewer deer this year,” he said.

CWD is an always-fatal, contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brain in infected animals, resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.

DEC saw its first cases of CWD in the spring of 2005, in two captive and five wild whitetails in central New York. An extensive monitoring program since that time has failed to turn up any new cases.

“DEC recently revised its surveillance plan and efforts this year will concentrate on collecting tissues at taxidermists as well as deer processors,” the department’s news release read.

It’s not known exactly how CWD is transmitted. The infectious agent, a prion, may be passed from animal to animal through feces, urine or saliva. The minimal incubation period between infection and development of clinical disease appears to be about 16 months. The maximum incubation period is unknown, as is the point at which shedding of the CWD agent begins during the prolonged course of infection.

The movement of infected material is believed to be one of primary routes of transmission.

“This amendment to the CWD regulations prohibits importing those parts of a deer where the disease is most likely to be found,” the news release said.

DEC advises hunters not to consume the meat of any animal that acts abnormal and to exercise precautions when butchering animals, such as using rubber or latex gloves. Also,

DEC urges hunters to dispose of deer parts that will not be consumed in a municipal landfill.

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