Taking another step to shield the state's deer and elk herds from chronic wasting disease, the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission proposed at its most recent quarterly meeting a new no-cost registration system for businesses that process meat from those animals.

Chronic wasting disease is an always-fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, elk, moose and caribou. It has not been detected in Kentucky but it has been found in six of seven bordering states and more than half the states in the U.S.

Under the Commission's proposal, deer and elk meat processors across the state would be required to register at no cost with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Maintaining accurate contact and location information for these processors will improve the department's ability to communicate the latest requirements for carcass disposal to processors and increase the efficiency of its monitoring and response efforts in the event of a positive detection in Kentucky.

The Commission made a number of other recommendations at its Sept. 13 meeting, including a proposal to give hunters in Kentucky a new option for taking coyotes at night.

If approved, coyotes could be hunted with rifles and shotguns at night on private land using lights or other means to make the animals visible from Dec. 1-March 31. Hunters would be required to carry written permission from the landowner. Rifles in .243 caliber or smaller could be used during this timeframe, but shells containing a single projectile could not be used with shotguns. Lights and other means to make coyotes visible at night cannot be connected to or cast from a mechanized vehicle.

In other wildlife-related business, the Commission recommended extending the trapping season for beaver, muskrat, mink and raccoon by one month, from the last day of February to March 31. Only body-gripping traps set as defined water sets could be used in the month of March. Otters and bobcats incidentally caught in March would need to be telechecked and could not be sold, but could be kept for personal use or donated for educational purposes. CITES tags would not be issued for otters or bobcats incidentally trapped in March. Trappers could request a disposal tag from a Kentucky Conservation Officer to send a hide to a tannery. Additionally, the hunting season for beaver and muskrat would be extended by one month through March under the proposal.

The Commission also proposed adding the month of June to the 2020 bear chase season.

In fisheries-related business, the Commission voted against a proposal to increase the number of steps and platforms allowed on the 50-foot buffer between private properties and Lake Malone. A measure to establish a new fee for increasing the number of allowable steps and landings on department-owned buffers was referred back to committee.

The Commission also recommended changes to fix inconsistencies in the administrative regulation for special commission permits and approved the department's budget for fiscal year 2020.

The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission is a nine-member board, comprised of volunteers who serve four-year terms after nomination by licensed hunters and anglers, appointed by the governor, and confirmed by the Kentucky senate. It meets quarterly and recommends hunting, fishing and boating regulations on behalf of the sportsmen and sportswomen of the Commonwealth.

A video replay of the meeting will be posted online via the "Commission and Committee Meeting Archive" link under "Important Info" on the department's homepage.

The next meeting of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission will be held in December. Once set, meeting agendas and dates are available online at fw.ky.gov.

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