September 06, 2022
Back in July, Wildfowl reported on a new development by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) with a restriction on the importation of birds due to rising concerns over bird flu, making it extremely difficult for hunters to import their birds into the United States. In their initial guidance, hunters were given two options: They needed to fully cook their bird meat before bringing it home, or they were required to leave their birds with an APHIS-approved taxidermy establishment before they can be brought home—both of which raised eyebrows and anxieties for hunters heading into the hunting season.
As of their latest guidance, APHIS is no longer permitting fully cooked bird meat to enter the USA and will only allow for fully finished or properly permitted taxidermy birds to enter.
In what some might construe as a classic Friday evening bad news dump straight out of a television show—on Friday September 2, the eve of the long Labor Day holiday weekend, no less—the USDA unloaded some highly unpopular news that now completely restricts the importation of wildfowl meat and taxidermy specimens into the U.S.
Last Friday evening’s announcement from APHIS caused strong and swift reaction from a few corners of the waterfowling community over the holiday weekend.
By way of a news release—released at 6:35 p.m. on Friday evening, Sept. 2, 2022—that course of action by APHIS stated that game birds taken by waterfowl hunters in Canada will not be permitted to enter the U.S. regardless of what Canadian province they were taken in.
According to their news release, “Hunter-harvested wild game bird trophies entering the United States from Canada must be fully finished, or accompanied by a 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 (VSPS) search page and searching for a taxidermist with the HPAI product code in your state.
Hunter-harvested unprocessed wild game bird meat/carcasses, 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. APHIS is aware of the impact this will have on hunting season and will provide updates if new information is received.
For any questions regarding import of animal products and by-products, please contact Animal Product Imports at 301-851-3300 or send an email to APIE@usda.gov.”
Bad News Backlash
Is it a sudden change in policy? The Memphis, Tennessee-based Ducks Unlimited (DU) and the Bismarck, North Dakota-based Delta Waterfowl both say that it is in their respective news releases and social media posts over the weekend, with both groups noting that APHIS has assured them days ago that this would not be the case.
Obviously, DU and Delta aren’t happy with this news. And neither are some of the commenters on their social media accounts, who note that all of this is a bit laughable since any bird flu infected ducks and geese will be winging across the U.S. and Canada border in a matter of days.
Perhaps because of this natural reality—that you can’t keep bird flu from spreading across the borders with wild ducks and geese that are following their migratory urge—DU also notes that the conservation group has issued a letter to USDA APHIS administrator Keven Shea protesting this so-called policy change and requesting immediate reconsideration of the decision.
Delta Waterfowl says that it has done the same, protesting what it calls a “…mid-stream policy change…” while also requesting that the decision be reconsidered immediately as well.
Wildfowl’s Editor-in-Chief Skip Knowles is heading to Saskatchewan this week and is less than impressed with the latest development. “To spring this on hunters on a holiday weekend literally the week the season kicks off is simply unfair. It’s not like the tens of millions of migrating waterfowl and other birds are adhering to international borders.”
Bordering on the Brink
So, what’s really going on here? It’s hard to say, because two national and widely respected conservation organizations are both contending that Friday’s announcement is a sudden shift in what they were being told by APHIS administrators would not happen. And then again, the only online information readily available at the moment also notes that what the Friday evening announcement from APHIS stated, that importing legally harvested wildfowl meat and taxidermy products from Canada will not be allowed, had already been noted online.
It’s possible that this is a fluid situation that could have additional information forthcoming or one or more of the parties noted above offering further clarification in the days ahead.
In the meantime, if you are heading to Canada to chase ducks and geese over the next several weeks, the option for importing them back into the U.S. doesn’t exist at the moment.
As you get ready for any trips north of the border, keep checking the APHIS website for new updates, consult with your Canadian outfitter for additional information and/or meat dispersal and taxidermy options, and of course, stay tuned right here at WildfowlMag.com as we keep you abreast of any changes that might happen with all of this.