Some hunters and outfitters were surprised this year when the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would not allow them to enter the US from Mexico with green deer capes. The reason has to do with some "new" requirements that are part of USDA rules to prevent the importation of ticks. These rules were published in the Federal register and appear to have been in effect since January 2011, although the USDA web site (www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/animals/animal_import/animal_imports.shtml) lists only an undated document under "New Requirements for Importing Ruminant Hides from Mexico." The document you open at that link is titled, "Clarification of NCIE Policy for the importation of hides and skins from Mexico." It appears that CBP began enforcing these new provisions late in the 2011-12 hunting season. The government website to ask questions about these new rules returns email as undeliverable and phone calls garner only the same information available on the web.
The purpose of the regulations is to prevent the importation of two diseases of concern: heartwater and cattle fever, which are carried by ticks. Wild ruminants are hosts for both species of ticks that transmit these diseases. The fever tick, responsible for cattle fever, was eradicated from the US, but still exists across the border in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, and a very active border quarantine zone exists along the Rio Grande in Texas to prevent the reemergence of the tick in Texas cattle herds. The tick that causes heartwater is not known to occur in Mexico, but is present in some Caribbean islands and could be spread by cattle egrets into Mexico or the US.
The new regulations affect all hunters who intend to return home with the green (un-tanned) hides of ruminants (mule deer, whitetail deer, bighorn sheep and exotics such as nilgai, axis deer and aoudad). The regulations require that all hides be "free of live and........(continued)