Kentucky Sues Hunter for Bringing CWD-Positive Deer Head Into the State

State officials seized the 8-point from the man's taxidermist and incinerated it
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KY deer head cwd lawsuit

After harvesting the buck in Wisconsin, the hunter brought the intact head back to his home state of Kentucky. Adobe stock

In an unprecedented move, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources has filed a lawsuit against a resident hunter for bringing the head of a CWD-positive deer into the state. The agency is seeking approximately $1,900 in damages from the hunter, according to a recent press release from the agency.  

“It is the first time Kentucky has sought civil damages against a hunter for importing a diseased deer carcass,” KDFW officials announced in the press release.

The lawsuit that KDFW filed on April 26 names Nicholas J. Behringer of Louisville as the defendant. The civil case revolves around an 8-point buck that Behringer harvested legally in Wisconsin last fall. According to the agency, the 47-year-old hunter checked the buck in accordance with Wisconsin regulations, and then brought the buck’s intact head to a taxidermist in Kentucky. In doing so, he violated a state regulation that prohibits the importation of deer carcasses or “high-risk parts” that have potentially infectious tissue.

“Hunters can legally bring de-boned meat, antlers, clean skull caps, and hides of deer harvested from other states into Kentucky only if all those high-risk tissues are removed,” the agency clarified.

That regulation was put in place because of concerns surrounding chronic wasting disease, the highly infectious and fatal neurological disease affecting deer, elk, and other cervids. To date, Kentucky is one of 20 states that has never had an animal test positive for CWD. Wisconsin has long dealt with the disease, and the state documented its first case of CWD more than 20 years ago.

KDFW wildlife officers questioned Behringer last November, after they received information about the illegally-imported deer head. The hunter cooperated, and he later admitted to illegally importing the deer head in Shelby County District Court on Jan. 3. He was fined $50 for the violation, and the agency ordered further testing to be done on the head.

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The frozen deer head still contained lymph nodes and brain tissue, and lab results from two types of tests confirmed that the buck was CWD-positive. Wildlife officers then incinerated the intact deer head to prevent any potential spread of the disease.

“Monitoring for disease threats and enforcing the laws designed to preserve the health of wildlife go hand-in hand,” Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Rich Storm said earlier this week. “The disease has been documented in every surrounding state except Indiana, so we want to keep it from spreading to Kentucky’s deer and elk herds.”