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U.S. government reverses course, won’t let Canadian game birds into U.S.

Previous policy limited only birds from avian influenza hotspots.

Ducks
A ring-neck duck (left) and a scaup. The U.S. government now says it will not allow any hunter-harvested birds from anywhere in Canada to be imported into the U.S. because of the possible spread of avian flu. It's unclear how long the ban will continue as fall hunting seasons begin.
Clint Austin / 2002 file / Duluth News Tribune
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In a reversal from a statement made last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture now says no wild birds harvested by hunters in Canada will be allowed into the U.S. due to the possible spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

“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,’’ the agency’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service said in a statement released Sept. 2.

“APHIS is aware of the impact this will have on hunting season and will provide updates if new information is received.“

The agency had previously said that only game birds taken in specific influenza hotspots would be banned from import into the U.S. The ban now applies to all of Canada.

The regulation allows for taxidermy trophies to be imported under certain provisions.

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“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,’’ the statement noted.

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.

The bird ban has been criticized by many hunters because the same game birds they shoot in Canada and import into the U.S. will freely fly south across the border into the U.S. in coming weeks during the migration.

The same border crossing issue occurred during the last wave of bird flu, in 2015, when several members of Congress stepped in, including then-8th District Rep. Rick Nolan of Minnesota, and convinced the U.S. agriculture department to drop the ban entirely.

The current strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza has been especially hard on wild bird populations but has diminished in recent months after peaking in spring.

The goose hunting season in northern Ontario opened Sep. 1. The duck season starts Sept. 10.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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