DULUTH, Minn. — A new Minnesota rule aimed at preventing the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer may cost taxidermists and game processors thousands of dollars in lost sales.
“It’s huge,” said Duluth taxidermist Randy Bowe of the new regulation. “Every taxidermist in the state will be affected by it. Every meat processor in the state will be affected by it.”
Under the new ruling, hunters may no longer bring into Minnesota whole deer, elk, moose or caribou from anywhere else in North America. Chronic wasting disease is spread by brain tissue or spinal fluid from animals infected with the disease.
“I went over my books, and this would have cost me 15 grand last year,” said Bowe, who owns Bowe Taxidermy.
Taxidermist Bob Christianson of International Falls said he has lost about $3,000 in sales so far this fall due to the ruling.
Tom Provost, regional enforcement supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Grand Rapids, said different policies will guide enforcement for those who bring in cervid carcasses from other states and provinces. If someone brings in a carcass from regions where CWD has been found, that animal will be seized, bagged and either incinerated or taken to a lined landfill.
If a hunter brings in a carcass from a region where CWD is not present, “we will work with the hunter to ensure the animal was from a non-endemic area, where the level of contamination would be virtually nil, we’ll do a little paperwork and likely allow the hunter to continue the transaction with the taxidermist or meat processor. We’ll make sure the carcass is disposed of (properly),” Provost said.
John Chalstrom of Chalstrom’s Bait and Tackle north of Duluth says the ruling likely won’t affect his venison processing business to a great degree.
“It could affect my late-season stuff,” he said. “During that final weekend (of deer season), I probably take in nine or 10 deer from local guys who hunt Wisconsin’s rifle opener and bring them back. The guys hunting out West always bring their animals in quartered.”
DNR officials say they initiated the change to keep Minnesota deer healthy. The prevalence and geographic spread of chronic wasting disease is increasing, they say.
“I understand the reasoning (behind the rule), and I agree with it,” Christianson said. “We have to protect our herd here. That stuff (CWD contamination from animal parts) stays in the ground a long time, and some people just dump their carcasses in the woods.”
Under the new law, hunters may bring to Minnesota only:
- Meat that is boned out
- Meat that is cut and wrapped, either commercially or privately
- Quarters or other portions with no part of the spinal column or head attached
- Hide and teeth
- Antlers or clean skull plates with antlers attached and all brain tissue removed
- Finished taxidermy mounts
Under the new rule, if a hunter brings an illegal out-of-state carcass to a taxidermist, the taxidermist is required to take the hunter’s contact information and forward it to the DNR. A DNR conservation officer then will issue a warning to the person who illegally imported the carcass. The taxidermist is required to dispose of the carcass properly (lined landfill or incinerator).
Wisconsin has an importation law similar to Minnesota’s but with somewhat more leeway for hunters. Under Wisconsin’s game importation rules, whole cervid carcasses and parts of carcasses, other than parts listed as permissible to move in DNR regulations, from states and provinces where CWD has been found (listed on Wisconsin DNR website) are not allowed into Wisconsin unless taken to a meat processor or taxidermist within 72 hours of entry into Wisconsin.
In Minnesota, prior to August of this year, restrictions on bringing carcasses of deer, elk, moose or caribou were in place only for animals harvested in areas infested with chronic wasting disease.