Import of harvested waterfowl from Canada again OK’d, with conditions

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"All My Ducks in a Row" Mallard Ducks at Chippewa Inlet Trail, North in Medina County. Sometimes the light is just right

Washington — In yet another policy reversal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has revised the agency’s Sept. 2 rule banning the import of harvested game birds from Canada.  

The ban was instituted to prevent the spread of the highly pathogenic avian influenza – or bird flu – that has been detected in, and killed scores of, wild birds and commercial poultry in Canada and the United States during the past year, including in Minnesota.

Effective Sept. 12, hunters were allowed to transport harvested game birds into the United States from Canada, although they must follow new protocols on how their birds are cleaned and transported. According to APHIS, under the new restrictions, “unprocessed hunter-harvested wild game bird carcasses, originating from or transiting Canada,” must meet the following conditions: 

• Viscera, head, neck, feet, skin and one wing have been removed.

• Feathers have been removed, with the exception of one wing, as required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for species identification.

• Carcasses must be rinsed in fresh, clean, potable water prior to packaging and must not have visible evidence of contamination with dirt, blood, or feces.

• Carcasses must be imported in leak-proof plastic packaging and stored in a leak-proof cooler or container during transport and import.

• Carcasses must be chilled and/or frozen during transport and import.

APHIS also recommends that “boots and any equipment used to process the carcasses should be cleaned and visibly free from dirt, blood, tissue, and feces.”  

When the Sept. 2 ban was announced – one day after waterfowl seasons had begun in several Canadian provinces – Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, and other groups issued letters of protest with APHIS, arguing in part that the ban would hurt hunters while doing little to stem the spread of bird flu. 

“We’re very pleased with the reconsideration by APHIS,” said John Devney, Delta Waterfowl’s chief policy officer in Bismarck, N.D. “This is a big win for hunters.” 

Dr. Mike Brasher, senior waterfowl scientist for Ducks Unlimited, agreed.  

“We certainly understand and appreciate the importance of limiting the spread of HPAI in the U.S.,” Brasher said. “But based on data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service, U.S. hunters and their harvested birds imported from Canada pose relatively minimal risks in this regard.” 

Before the Canadian border was closed to travel in 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly 19,000 nonresidents – mostly Americans – hunted waterfowl in Canada. Many are thought to be Minnesotans who routinely travel to Canada to hunt.

For more information: www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/newsroom/stakeholder-info/sa_by_date/sa-2022/canada-wild-bird-game-carcasses

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