Escaped CWD suspect deer remains at large
An antlerless deer known as Pink 23 that escaped from the Adams County enclosure where it lived with the 3.5-year-old doe that had Pennsylvania’s first confirmed case of chronic wasting disease remained in the wild as this issue went to press.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pink 23 broke through the fence at 1791 New Chester Road, New Oxford, on Oct. 18, as staff from the department and agents from the USDA’s Wildlife Services were attempting to kill the nine deer that still lived there.
Lab tests confirmed CWD Oct. 10 in a doe that died Oct. 4 in the enclosure on the 1.5-acre property.
That triggered the state’s CWD response plan for action by agencies including the state Department of Agriculture and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Part of the plan calls for the “depopulation” of all deer on the farm of the initial CWD confirmation, which is now referred to as “the index farm,” according to Mathew Meals, deputy secretary of the state Department of Agriculture.
As the agents were carrying out that action, Pink 23 crashed through the fence and disappeared into the adjacent woodlot.
The New Oxford area is a mix of farms with their fields, sprawling suburban residential lots, small woodlots and winding stream corridors.
As of this issue’s deadline, agents continued to search the area around the farm for the escaped deer, hoping it would return to its old haunt, said Samantha Krepps, spokesman for the state Department of Agriculture.
Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Game Commission, said commission staff have spotted the deer, still sporting its yellow ear tag, but were unable to take a safe shot at it.
“We have discussed this with our officers and directed them that if they encounter the deer and the circumstances are right to put the deer down,” he commented.
Feaser also noted, “We would give any hunter who lawfully harvests that deer a replacement tag” to allow him to harvest another animal.
The escaped doe remains largely the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture, because that is the agency with authority over the 1,100 farms in Pennsylvania that host an estimated 25,000 cervids, which are deer, elk and moose.
CWD is a fatal disease among cervids and has not been demonstrated to spread into other species, including humans.
While it does not have responsibility for captive animals, including escapees, the Game Commission is the other principal agency involved in the response because of its responsibility for wild deer, the state’s most important game species.