On August 8, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Ann M. Veneman announced that the USDA will immediately allow the importation of hunter-harvested wild ruminant meat from Canada. Ruminants are hoofed, cud-chewing mammals—such as domestic cattle—and include wild game animals such as deer, elk, moose, caribou, sheep, and mountain goats.
The USDA originally banned the importation of Canadian ruminant products on May 20, when a single case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), better known as "mad cow disease," was diagnosed in a cow in Alberta, B.C. The move was poorly received by sportsmen, who viewed the ban as an overreaction. To date, no conclusive, scientific evidence exists to support the claim that BSE is readily transmissible from domestic ruminants to their wild relatives. In July, the USDA relaxed the ban somewhat, allowing sportsmen to bring up to two sets of harvested and cleaned antlers, skull, plate, hide, and cape back with them, but still prohibited the importation of any meat. This created both an ethical and economic predicament for hunters, the majorityof whom believe they have the responsibility and privilege to use as much of their harvested animal as possible.
The lifting of the ban is certainly welcome news for sportsmen planning Canadian hunting trips in the near future. Hunters can immediately begin importing most wild ruminant products intended for personal use, but will be required to submit a "Veterinary Services Special Permit for the Importation of Hunter-Harvested Wild Ruminant Meat" along with one of the following: a valid Canadian export certificate for game meat or a copy of a valid Canadian hunting license or hunting tag. The special permit can be downloaded from the web site of the USDA`s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/lpa/issues/bse/bse.html, or can be obtained by calling the APHIS National Center for Import and Export at (301) 734-3277.