Chronic wasting disease has spread to free-ranging deer in an area of Pennsylvania where it previously had been detected only in captive deer.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced July 20, 2017 that a free-ranging whitetail buck in Bell Township, Clearfield County, tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The CWD-positive buck was shot by a wildlife conservation officer June 7 on State Game Lands 87 because it showed signs of being diseased. Preliminary tests indicated the buck was CWD-positive, and the final results confirm the buck was infected with CWD, which always is fatal to deer and elk.
The buck was within Disease Management Area 3 (DMA 3), which was established in 2014 after surveillance by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture detected CWD at two captive deer facilities in Jefferson County. Because this buck was located near the center of the 350-square-mile DMA 3, the DMA will not need to expand, however, the Game Commission is immediately taking steps to increase CWD surveillance within DMA 3.
The Game Commission will be allocating Deer Management Assistance Program permits within DMA 3. Each hunter can purchase up to two of the 2,800 DMAP permits anywhere hunting licenses are sold by requesting permits for Unit 3045.
These DMAP permits can be used to take antlerless deer on public and private lands within DMA 3 during any established deer season. Hunters must acquire permission from private landowners prior to hunting.
Harvest data from DMAP permits will augment CWD surveillance. Cooperation from hunters will be an important first step to make that happen.
While the spread of CWD within Pennsylvania is a concern statewide and a threat to the state’s deer and its deer-hunting tradition, this latest CWD-positive within DMA 3 is a concern also because of its proximity to Pennsylvania’s elk range, which abuts DMA 3. More than 100 elk are tested for CWD each year and, thus far, the disease has not been detected among the state’s elk.
“There is no vaccine to prevent deer or elk from contracting CWD, and there’s no treatment to cure infected animals,” said Game Commission wildlife-management director Wayne Laroche. “It’s important our response is as effective and efficient as possible to attempt to curtail this disease before it becomes well-established in an area where it not only is a threat to our deer, but also our elk,” Laroche added.
Hunters are advised not to eat the meat from animals known to be infected with CWD, or believed to be diseased. There is also a prohibition on removing the high-risk parts of harvested deer from any DMA. Hunters who harvest deer and take it to a meat processor or taxidermist within a DMA are making certain that deer are available to the Game Commission for CWD surveillance. It doesn’t cost anything to drop deer heads off for sampling, and if a sample tests positive, the hunter will be notified.