'Zombie deer' disease keeps spreading across country, hunters fear it could impact industry

Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Map and Getty Images 

At least 16 states have come up with new regulations to prevent hunters from transporting deer from areas where deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.

The Carolinas are among the states that have stricter guidelines. In North Carolina for example, hunters must follow the state's new packaging and processing regulations which require meat from deer to be cut off the bone and wrapped before being transported through the state.

The state also forbids hunters from transporting any part of a deer's spinal column. In South Carolina the state Department of Environment and Resources now requires hunters to label carcass parts with identifying information like the name and address of the individual importing the carcass parts; the state and/or country of origin; the date the deer was killed and the hunter's license or permit number. It’s all a part of an effort to prevent the spread of so-called “zombie-deer” and wipe it out of existence.

Steve Demarais, a professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Agriculture at Mississippi State University, said most states now have some form of regulation that forbids hunters from transporting deer carcasses across state lines.

“If someone illegally moves a deer to a new area thinking they’re going to improve the genetics of the local deer population by bringing deer from a breeding facility, for example, that’s the easiest way to transmit it,” Demarais said.

The professor said people have spread the disease by transporting deer they’ve harvested in one state, processing it in another state and discarding the carcass locally. He said the carcass could have the infectious agent on it and get into the soil and potentially contaminate other animals.