Tim Chitwood

Alabama bans Mississippi deer meat over ‘zombie deer’ nerve disease

FILE - In this April 19, 2012, file photo, deer walk in a field near Bismarck, N.D. Alabama has prohibited Mississippi deer meat crossing the border because chronic wasting disease has been found in Mississippi deer.
FILE - In this April 19, 2012, file photo, deer walk in a field near Bismarck, N.D. Alabama has prohibited Mississippi deer meat crossing the border because chronic wasting disease has been found in Mississippi deer. AP

Here’s a fine dining tip: Don’t order the Mississippi venison. Not even if the chef gives the entree a fancy name like “Bucque a Tier” or whatever.

Alabama just announced a ban on deer meat imported from Mississippi, and if Alabama ain’t having it, maybe you ought not be eating it.

Alabama has prohibited Mississippi deer meat crossing the border because of chronic wasting disease or CWD, sometimes characterized as “zombie deer” disease.

It’s a nerve disease akin to Mad Cow that makes a deer lose weight and appetite and wander alone until it dies.

Unlike Mad Cow, it has never spread to humans. Although you couldn’t tell that from some of the symptoms, which include “decreased interactions with other animals, listlessness, lowering of the head, blank facial expression and repetitive walking in set patterns.” That just sounds like someone texting.

Those are the symptoms listed on Outdooralabama.com, which adds:

“CWD affected animals continue to eat but amounts of feed consumed are reduced, leading to gradual loss of body condition. Excessive drinking and urination are common in the terminal stages. Behavioral changes also occur in the majority of cases, including excessive salivation, drooling and grinding of the teeth....”

Alabama announced the prohibition on Feb. 9. We probably should have reported this sooner, what with the illicit trade in deer flesh so pervasive these days. But it was almost Valentine’s Day, and some local stores were selling heart-shaped steak and ground beef.

We would not want anyone who already put a heart-shaped steak in the freezer for a romantic dinner to get all paranoid because of mad zombie deer infestations.

On the other hand, if you happened to be serving your romantic partner some heart-shaped buck of questionable origin, you could always write a health warning in the Valentine’s Day card, perhaps as a poem:

Because we’ve no deer wall

At the state border,

I hope this don’t give you

A brain disorder.

The state of Alabama did not ban every little bitty part of a Mississippi deer. Some parts are OK. As the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division posts on Facebook:

“Exceptions to the ban include meat that has been completely deboned, cleaned skull plates with attached antlers and no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, raw capes or hides with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue, upper canine teeth with no root structure or other soft tissue, and finished taxidermy products or tanned hides.”

Those can make nice Valentine’s Day gifts too, you know.

First found in captive Colorado mule deer in 1967, CWD has spread to 24 states. It affects other hoofed animals such as elk and moose. It can get into the soil and linger, continuing to spread.

A dead white-tailed deer found Jan. 25 in Mississippi’s Issaquena County had it, the first case confirmed in the state. Alabama already bans importing deer parts from other states with CWD, so it’s not just picking on Mississippi again.

You may ask: Even if authorities clamp down on the insidious smuggling of deer meat, won’t the diseased deer still wander across state lines? It’s not like there’s a border wall, you know.

Similar observations were posted to the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division Facebook page: “Do the deer in Mississippi know not to cross the state line?” someone commented, to which the division responded: “We are focused on what we can do rather than despairing over what we cannot do.”

And that’s true: You have to do what you can do and not what you can’t because what else can you do, right?

So keep that in mind, next time you’re buying your baby some heart-shaped buck.

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