Michigan officials are taking illegal importation of deer from CWD-positive states seriously.
Michigan hunters who might be traveling out-of-state anytime soon should be familiar with the strict deer importation laws and consequences of violating them before they go.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is very concerned about the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) from other states. So much so that they are conducting operations aimed at stopping illegal importation of deer harvested in other states.
Michigan law makes it illegal to import a deer from a CWD-positive state. And in a recent operation in Berrien County near the Indiana/Michigan border, six deer were confiscated from neighboring CWD-positive states Illinois and Wisconsin. The latter state recently euthanized an entire captive deer herd contaminated with the disease.
The Michigan residents in the Berrien County incident lost their deer, and will also face stiff potential penalties of $500 with a possible 90 days in jail. Five of the deer came from Illinois and one from Wisconsin. After testing for CWD in Lansing, the remains of the animals will be destroyed.
"The transportation of whitetail deer into Michigan from a CWD-positive state is a very serious concern," Conservation Officer Andrew Bauer said in a DNR press release.
Officials were already concerned about Wisconsin in particular since the state has stopped personal deer checks. It resulted in a campaign dedicated to raising awareness along Michigan's Upper Peninsula border with Wisconsin.
That's not to say you should necessarily cancel any upcoming out-of-state hunt. But any meat brought into the state must be deboned, and any antlers still attached to a skull plate must have all brain and tissue cleaned out. Because CWD is a neurological disorder, this means the disease has the potential to be carried in the skull of a caped-out animal.
According to the press release, these rules also apply to elk and moose. For anyone going out-of-state, it may be easiest to have a taxidermist mount the animal in the state you shot it and then ship the finished mount to you, which is another legal option.
The nature of CWD is what has wildlife officials most concerned for the well-being of the Michigan deer herd. CWD is caused by prions that are spread from animal to animal or through an infected environment.
"CWD can spread from illegally imported deer to our deer herd, causing a significant negative impact," Bauer said in the release.
If the prions that cause CWD get into the soil, the local deer herd has a greater risk of being infected.
The Michigan DNR has encouraged all hunters to have their deer tested for the disease this year. There's still a month left in the season, so don't forget after those successful, late-season hunts.
Michigan confirmed the first case of CWD in a free-ranging deer in Ingham County back in May. The announcement resulted in the creation of a CWD management zone spanning three counties, along with the implementation of feeding bans for deer and elk.
Currently, Michigan has importation restrictions for deer, elk, and moose taken from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
If you are planning on heading over the border for a Canadian monster, be aware the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan also have these importation restrictions.
The DNR is also encouraging self-policing of your fellow hunters to help control the spread of CWD. They are asking anyone with knowledge of importation violations to call their report-a-poacher hotline.