States Restrict Reindeer Travel Over Illness

Kyle Wilson's reindeer have been reined in for the holidays.

Wilson normally makes good money in December transporting his reindeer to Christmas events around the Southeast. But this year, states seeking to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease (search) — the deer-family equivalent of mad cow disease (search) — have curtailed Dasher and Dancer's itinerary.

In Kentucky, for example, Wilson said officials stopped him at the state line and warned him there could be repercussions if he tried to attend a Santa-and-his-reindeer event there.

"They said they would confiscate the deer on the spot and kill them," he said.

In recent years, chronic wasting disease has spread from a small region along the Colorado-Wyoming line to some Western and Midwestern states. The disease of the nervous system is contagious and incurable.

However, no deer in the Southeast and no reindeer anywhere have been diagnosed with the disease, said state veterinarian Ron Wilson, who is not related to Kyle Wilson.

Still, some states are taking the threat seriously. In North Carolina, importing reindeer is banned and their travel is mostly restricted.

"We have no ban on public viewing," said Kate Pipkin, public information biologist for the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (search). "You just cannot transport them to a shopping mall."

Some states, including New Mexico, New Hampshire, Mississippi and Minnesota have travel restrictions on captive deer from areas that have had cases of wasting-disease infections.