Georgia DNR proposes deer import ban

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June 29, 2002  

Georgia may ban imports of deer

Officials want to keep chronic wasting disease outside borders

BY BRYAN BRASHER,Columbus Ledger-Inquirer Staff Writer

In the 35 years since chronic wasting disease was discovered in captive Midwestern deer herds, there has never been a confirmed case in Georgia.

Officials from the state's conservation and agricultural agencies want to keep it that way.

A statewide task force formed to protect Georgia's deer population from the disease has recommended that the state's borders be closed immediately to the importation of all deer species from other regions. The move follows a devastating outbreak of CWD among free-roaming, white-tailed deer in Wisconsin.

CWD symptoms are similar to those of mad-cow disease. Infected deer drink incessantly, salivate uncontrollably and lose command of their motor functions as they waste away to skin and bones.

"We don't want to start a panic," said Melissa Cummings of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. "It's important for people to realize there has never been a case of this disease in Georgia -- or any other southeastern state. Closing our borders to importation is simply a preventative measure."

Importation of white-tailed deer, an abundant native species in Georgia, is allowed only when the animals are needed for research. But several exotic species, including red deer, black bucks and fallow deer, are imported frequently for use on commercial venison farms and at breeding facilities. Special permits are required and each animal must be tested for tuberculosis and brucellosis.

Because brain tissue is required to test for CWD, there is no way to be certain that live animals are disease-free.
 

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