Taxidermists’ and Deer Processors’ Assistance Sought in Preventing Chronic Wasting Disease

Earlier this year Alabama enacted a ban on the import of deer carcasses from states where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed. The Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) is asking that taxidermists and deer processors help spread the word and keep Alabama CWD-free.
Comparable to mad cow disease, CWD is a fatal disease affecting the central nervous system of deer. The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal causing it to become emaciated, display abnormal behavior, lose bodily functions and subsequently die. Once CWD is introduced into the environment, it is impossible to eradicate. This makes taxidermists and deer processors crucial in preventing the disease from becoming established in Alabama.
Mitchell Bragg, a taxidermist in Jacksonville, Ala., has first-hand experience with the new CWD ban. Recently, a hunter brought Bragg a deer that had been harvested in Illinois, a state included in the ban. Thanks to an informational poster distributed by WFF, Bragg called his local district wildlife office for guidance on how to handle the situation.
The deer was double bagged and frozen until it can be sent to Auburn University for testing and proper disposal. A bleach-based solution was also recommended for cleaning any surface or tools that came in contact with the deer.
“Mr. Bragg did the right thing in calling us,” said Lt. Carter Hendrix with the WFF Law Enforcement Section. “It often takes a while to spread the word about season changes and new regulations. Thanks to his vigilance more hunters will know about the ban and take extra precautions when returning to Alabama with deer harvested from a known CWD area. To date, there have been no positive tests for CWD in Alabama and it needs to stay that way.”
Bragg said the main issue right now is awareness.
“Lots of folks aren’t fully aware of the CWD regulation change,” he said. “Even I didn’t know how serious it is until this deer was brought in. I didn’t know that once it goes into the ground or contaminates water, you can’t get rid of it. It never goes away. Contaminating one spot could be catastrophic to Alabama’s entire deer herd.”
Bragg’s advice for other taxidermists or processors who might experience similar situations is to make sure they are aware of the new CWD ban. Additionally, hunters, taxidermists and deer processors are encouraged to take every precaution to protect the state’s deer herd and, in turn, their own businesses.
“It’s in our best interest to take care of what we’ve got,” Bragg said.
Prior to returning to Alabama with a deer harvested in a CWD-affected state, it is critical that hunters completely debone the animal, remove and dispose of any brain or spinal tissue from skull plates, raw capes and hides. Root structures and other soft tissue should be removed from all teeth. Additionally, skull plates must be cleaned with a bleach-based solution. Finished taxidermy products and tanned hides are not affected by the ban.
For instruction on how to properly sanitize the mount or carcass, contact the nearest WFF district office. For contact information, visit www.outdooralabama.com/contact.
CWD has been found in captive and/or wild deer in 24 states, two Canadian provinces, Norway, and South Korea. It is not known to be transmissible to humans or domestic livestock. For a map of CWD states, visit www.outdooralabama.com/map-cwd-north-america.
Alabama and 36 other states ban the importation of cervid body parts from CWD affected areas. Violation of Alabama’s animal parts ban is a class C misdemeanor and carries significant fines and possible imprisonment.

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