September 13, 2022
If you’re going to be hunting ducks and geese in Canada this fall, then rejoice if you plan to eat the mallards, pintails, gadwalls, teal, wigeon, and assorted other ducks and geese that you might bag on your autumn 2022 hunt.
If that news seems a bit confusing, it probably is just a little bit since only a week ago, that option wasn’t available in a situation that we urged readers to keep abreast of since it was fluid and subject to change.
In fact, it was only six days ago that Wildfowl gave the latest update concerning a story that has had numerous twists and turns since its beginning back in July, the ongoing saga about whether or not U.S. waterfowl hunters would be allowed to bring legally harvested ducks and geese this fall from Canada across the border into the U.S.
Initially this summer, the answer we told readers back in July was that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a division of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), had significantly restricted the importation of harvested ducks and geese this fall, as it continued to closely monitor the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI).
And because of that bird flu, the federal agency was trying to mitigate the spread of HPAI southward into the U.S. and wasn’t going to easily allow the importation of legally harvested ducks and geese—your duck and goose meat had to be fully cooked! And then just last week, APHIS provided an update allowing only fully complete taxidermy specimens or those with a special permit would be allowed to enter the USA.
Critics denounced the move, noting that migrating waterfowl, bird flu or not, would be over the U.S./Canada border in a matter of days and weeks, carrying the HPAI into the country one way or the other.
And some stakeholders like Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl issued strongly worded press releases decrying the most recently updated decision, noting that it had been their understanding that hunters would not easily be alble to bring ducks and geese back into the U.S. this fall.
Six days later, APHIS issued a new statement on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022 that reversed course on last week’s decision to some degree.
“On September 2, 2022, USDA APHIS issued a stakeholder alert implementing restrictions on hunter harvested wild bird meat/carcasses from all of Canada, regardless of province, due to the risk of transmitting highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI),” stated the APHIS news release.
“HPAI is an extremely infectious poultry disease spreading throughout North America, primarily by wild birds. APHIS regulations implement strict import controls to prevent HPAI introductions resulting from people transporting contaminated wildlife meat, carcasses, and trophies into the United States.
“APHIS has been working with stakeholders and other federal agencies to provide options for importing hunter-harvested wild bird meat/carcasses that address the HPAI transmission risk to our domestic poultry. Effective September 12, APHIS will allow the import of hunter harvested wild bird meat/carcasses as outlined below.
“Unprocessed hunter-harvested wild game bird carcasses, originating from or transiting Canada, must meet following conditions:
- Viscera, head, neck, feet, skin, and one wing have been removed; and
- Feathers have been removed, with the exception of one wing – as required by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for species identification; and
- Carcasses must be rinsed in fresh, clean, potable water prior to packaging and must not have visible evidence of contamination with dirt, blood, or feces; and
- Carcasses must be imported in leak-proof plastic packaging and stored in a leak proof cooler or container during transport and import; and
- Carcasses must be chilled or frozen during transport and import.”
While that’s good news for wildfowlers wanting to bring a cooler filled with a possession limit of grain-fed ducks and geese back home for the dinner table this autumn season, APHIS’ announcement stopped short of completely reversing its earlier ban of duck and geese importation this fall.
That means that no cooked or cured meat and meat products, like jerky and/or sausage, will be allowed to come into the U.S. since such imports cannot meet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s requirements to be able to identify the species of wild bird contained in the products.
And hunter-harvested wild game bird trophies will also still face restrictions, since such taxidermy mounts must be fully finished by a taxidermist, accompanied by a VS import permit, or consigned directly to a USDA approved taxidermy establishment. (Editor’s Note: Such approved taxidermists can be found by going to the Veterinary Services Process Streamlining (VSPS) search page.
APHIS also recommends that waterfowl hunters coming back into the U.S. from Canada over the next several weeks remember that “…boots and any equipment used to process the carcasses should be clean and visibly free from dirt, blood, tissue, and feces.”
Reaction quickly followed this afternoon from DU and Delta Waterfowl among others.
"We certainly understand and appreciate the importance of limiting the spread of HPAI in the U.S.," said DU Senior Waterfowl Scientist, Dr. Mike Brasher, in a news release.
"But based on data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service, U.S. hunters and their harvested birds imported from Canada pose relatively minimal risks in this regard. DU will use this opportunity to communicate with waterfowl hunters about these new import restrictions and USDA APHIS voluntary guidelines that will provide additional safeguards against the spread of HPAI this fall and winter."
Adam Putnam, CEO of the Memphis, Tenn. based DU organization, also gave a thumbs up response as well in terms of the Monday afternoon announcement.
“"We appreciate USDA’s willingness to hear the concerns from DU and revise this rule in a practical and scientific manner," said Putnam. "This revision is not only a win for American waterfowlers but also for the application of sound science. Now, waterfowlers who’ve already departed north of the Canadian border have clear guidance on how to limit the spread of HPAI and bring their harvested game birds back into the U.S. safely."
And one of Putnam’s counterparts at the Bismarck, N.D. based Delta Waterfowl was also enthusiastic in his own response in regard to today’s announcement.
““This is great news for American waterfowl hunters already in Canada and for those with plans to hunt there this season,” said John Devney, chief policy officer for Delta, in a news release.
“As The Duck Hunters Organization, we sincerely thank APHIS for reconsidering the restrictions and for doing it so quickly. It definitely puts optimism back into the hearts of hunters looking forward to hunting ducks and geese in Canada this fall following what promises to have been an outstanding summer of duck production!”
He then added that while this is good news, hunters should still do all that they can to keep HPAI from spreading.
“This much-appreciated reversal from APHIS in no way downplays the serious issues of highly pathogenic avian influenza,” added Devney. “Law-abiding, ethical hunters will follow these restrictions carefully and completely and properly present our birds for proper inspection at the border.”
As always, stay tuned to WildfowlMag.com for additional developments in this story.