Safeguards in Place to Slow CWD Spread

By Doug Leier, NDG&F Dept.

The concern over chronic wasting disease, a fatal disease of the nervous system of deer and elk, often draws comparisons to the threat of introduction of zebra mussels or other aquatic nuisance species.

While the disease and the mussels affect different parts of the natural world, one of the primary strategies for addressing them both is minimizing or eliminating the potential for people to spread them to new areas. Which is why there are rules and regulations in place.

Through spring and summer those rules primarily apply to anglers and boaters. In fall, in addition to ANS rules for waterfowl hunters, big game hunters who are travelling within and outside of the North Dakota also need to review requirements for transporting deer, elk and moose carcasses and carcass parts into and within the state North Dakota as a precaution against the possible spread of CWD.

Hunters harvesting a big game animal this fall in North Dakota deer unit 3F2 cannot transport a carcass containing the head and spinal column outside of the unit unless it’s taken to a meat processor within five days of the harvest date. The head can be removed from the carcass and transported outside of the unit if it is to be submitted to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for CWD surveillance purposes, or to a licensed taxidermist.

If the deer is processed in the field to boned meat, and the hunter wants to leave the head in the field, the head must be legally tagged and the hunter must be able to return to or give the exact location of the head if requested for verification.

In addition, hunting big game over bait is prohibited in deer units 3C west of the Missouri River, 3E1, 3E2, 3F1 and 3F2.

These units in southwestern North Dakota are included because of their proximity to the locations where deer identified with CWD were taken by hunters. The first North Dakota deer with CWD was detected in 2009 in unit 3F2. Since then eight more deer have tested positive, all of them also within unit 3F2.

In order to reduce the risk of CWD coming from other states, hunters are prohibited from transporting into or within North Dakota the whole carcass, or certain carcass parts, of deer, elk, moose or other members of the cervid family from areas within states and provinces with documented occurrences of CWD in wild or farmed populations.

Only the following portions of the carcass can be transported:

·         Meat that is cut and wrapped either commercially or privately.
·         Quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached.
·         Meat that has been boned out.
·         Hides with no heads attached.
·         Clean (no meat or tissue attached) skull plates with antlers attached.
·         Antlers with no meat or tissue attached.
·         Upper canine teeth, also known as buglers, whistlers or ivories.
·         Finished taxidermy heads.

Hunters should refer to the 2017-18 CWD proclamation on the Game and Fish Department’s website,, for other states that have had free-ranging deer, moose or elk diagnosed with CWD. Importation of harvested elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose or other cervids from listed areas is restricted.

Leier is a biologist for the Game and Fish Department.

(Featured Photo: The first case of CWD in North Dakota was found in 2009 in deer unit 3F2)

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