Tightened biosecurity restrictions prompted by avian influenza concerns
Hunter-harvested unprocessed wild game bird meat, originating from or transiting Canada, will not be permitted to enter the United States regardless of the Canadian province from which the bird was harvested under new federal guidance announced today.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has been detected in both wild birds and poultry in Canada. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have a zoning agreement in place to reduce the movement restrictions for trade in poultry and poultry products. However, these zones do not apply to wildlife.
Hunter-harvested wild game bird trophies entering the United States from Canada must now be fully finished, or accompanied by a Veterinary Services (VS) import permit, or consigned directly to a USDA Approved Establishment. (Hunters may find an approved taxidermy establishment by visiting the Veterinary Services Process Streamlining) search page and searching for a taxidermist with the HPAI product code in your state).
According to reporting from Field and Stream, the ‘fully-finished’ requirement means hunters may be able to bring fully-cooked meat back into the states, though they would still need to leave a wing on due to migratory bird law. Donation of their kills to local organizations is another option.
Hunting tourism interests impacted by this decision spoke out against the USDA action.
“The notion that banning the importation of ducks and geese taken by American hunters is going to have any positive impact on controlling the spread of strains of avian flu ignores the reality that millions of birds are arriving from Canada into the U.S. daily regardless of any such ban,” says Charles Potter of the Chicago-based Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation.
APHIS acknowledged these restrictions will have an impact on the hunting season and indicated the guidance would be updated as the HPAI risk level changed.
HPAI is extremely infectious and can spread rapidly. HPAI strains can circulate freely in wild birds without sign of illness but can infect domestic poultry causing severe and fatal illness. Recommended biosecurity measures for waterfowl hunters include:
- Do not handle or eat sick game.
- Field dress and prepare game outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.
- Wear rubber or disposable latex gloves while handling and cleaning game.
- When done handling game, wash hands thoroughly with soap or disinfectant, and clean knives, equipment, and surfaces that came in contact with game.
- Do not eat, drink, or smoke while handling animals.
- All game should be thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit before being consumed.
- Avoid attracting wild birds and waterfowl by securing feed and not using wild bird feeders on or near the premises.
- Report bird mortalities to your state wildlife management agency immediately so that bird die-offs can be investigated and tested for avian influenza.
- Prevent contact of domestic or captive birds with wild birds.
- Be mindful that the virus may also be transported by your hunting equipment. If you hunt waterfowl and have backyard poultry, plan for added biosecurity measures to keep your flock healthy.
APHIS advises the public to contact Animal Product Imports with any questions regarding import of animal products and by-products at 301-851-3300 or send an email to APIE@usda.gov.
Source: USDA APHIS