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Disease a threat to deer in Maine

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Disease a threat to deer in Maine

Disease a threat to deer in Maine

Maine's deer and moose populations have avoided chronic wasting disease so far, but the contagious brain disease eventually will find its way into the state, the state's director of resource management said Thursday. Ken Elowe's comment came as the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's Advisory Council showed support for a proposal that would restrict how hunter-killed deer from other states are brought into Maine.

The proposed hunting law would not prevent the disease, the moose-deer version of mad cow disease, but it would take away one avenue it could travel to get here, Elowe said.

The disease affects all cervids, including deer and moose. While its causes are not fully understood, state biologists believe it can spread from deer parts that are dumped in the woods.

The Advisory Council, the department's rule-making body, will vote on the proposal in December.

"(Chronic wasting disease) is important and hunters have to realize this is not fail-safe," Elowe said. "Education is an important next step. I don't think many hunters will doubt the seriousness of this."

The law would make it illegal to bring in the full carcass of a deer or elk shot outside Maine.

Hunters who kill deer and elk in other states could only bring back: the boned-out meat; the hardened antlers and properly cleaned skull caps; the capes and hides, and finished taxidermy mounts.

Maine tests roughly 800 hunter-killed deer annually. So far, all have tested negative.

The proposed law is in response to evidence that the disease has moved east to New York and West Virginia in the past year, Elowe said.

It is now found in 14 states and Canada, and has been ravaging deer herds for 20 years, according to the state.

Deer hunters on the Advisory Council supported the department's efforts to prevent the disease from reaching Maine.

"It is something that will be talked about in every deer camp this fall," said council member David Wardwell. "It was not talked about as much last year. Now it will be."

"If the state's estimated whitetail deer population of 250,000 is threatened - or inflicted - with this devastating disease, it would hurt the entire hunting industry in Maine," said state wildlife planner Gene Dumont.

Last year, Maine had 215,000 licensed hunters, who spent an estimated $200 million on hunting-related activities in Maine, according to the state and the International Association of Fish and Game Agencies.

Council member Bob Savage of Limington, also a deer hunter, said the state has to do everything it can to minimize the threat of the disease. "I don't know if anything will guarantee that it will not get to Maine eventually," he said.

Post Fri 21 Oct, 2005 6:47 am 
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