WASHINGTON, D.C. – Aug. 3, 2023 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has issued its 2023 rule regarding the import of game birds from Canada. After close consultation with waterfowl scientists from Ducks Unlimited (DU), APHIS has revised last year’s rule to allow skin to remain intact on hunter-harvested carcasses. All previous restrictions remain the same.
Under the previous rule issued last year to limit the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), USDA APHIS required hunters to remove skin from harvested game birds from Canada, among other restrictions. The 2023 rule has eliminated that requirement.
Under the revised restrictions, unprocessed hunter-harvested wild game bird carcasses originating from or transiting Canada must meet the following conditions:
Viscera, head, neck, feet, 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.
“We appreciate USDA’s acceptance of input from DU scientists throughout this decision-making process,” said DU CEO Adam Putnam. “They’ve heard the concerns of the hunting and conservation communities and have made a decision using the best available science. The 2023 rule is both practical and science-based and, importantly, it gives American waterfowlers clearly defined guidance to safely plan trips north of the border while taking the necessary precautions to limit the spread of HPAI.”
DU has been heavily involved in this process over the last year. On Sept. 2, 2022, USDA APHIS issued a regulation that disallowed game birds taken by hunters in Canada from entering the United States. Over the following week, DU scientists held several discussions with USDA APHIS, making the case there was little existing evidence this regulation would have a meaningful impact on the spread of HPAI in the U.S. On Sept. 12, 2022, USDA APHIS issued a revised regulation permitting hunters to transport carcasses with certain restrictions – which were the same as the 2023 rule, but with the additional requirement to remove the skin from carcasses.
“When it comes to HPAI, we agree limiting its spread in the United States is a top priority,” said DU Chief Conservation Officer Karen Waldrop. “Waterfowlers should appreciate that this rulemaking process is not taken lightly and continues to utilize the best available science – which tells us carcasses transported by American hunters pose minimal risk. It’s incumbent upon waterfowlers to follow these import guidelines to ensure game birds are transported responsibly. DU will help educate waterfowl hunters on how to do so as safely as possible.”
Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to conserving North America’s continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 16 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org.