Good news on the chronic wasting disease front – finally
With deer farms quarantined in 16 counties, the chronic wasting disease situation seemed to be getting worse by the day. Now, there is finally some good news. The two free-roaming deer with connections to Ronald Rutter’s New Oxford deer farm — where chronic wasting disease was first discovered in Pennsylvania — have been shot and killed by hunters.
Even better news — the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture confirmed on Dec. 7 that the first deer killed has tested negative for CWD.
The doe, referred to as “Pink 23,” because it wore a pink ear tag bearing the number 23, was shot by a hunter on the opening day of deer season. The deer was shot on Nov. 26 – only about a quarter of a mile away from the Adams County farm from which it had escaped on Oct. 23.
Removing both of these deer from the wild is good news for hunters and the state’s wild deer population. It is doubly good news that Pink 23 tested negative for CWD, because that doe had been free for over a month. If it had been infected, it could have spread the disease-infecting the wild deer herd with CWD prions.
We now anxiously await the testing results of the second doe, named “Purple 4.” That doe escaped from an unlicensed deer facility near Alexandria in Huntingdon County early last summer. That deer also originated from a deer farm owned by Ron or Bryan Rutter — where the disease was discovered. The doe was first sold to Freedom Whitetails in East Freedom, Blair County, and then sold to Gordon Trimer, who lives between Alexandria and Barree.
As of this date, two deer from that New Oxford facility — a buck and a doe — have tested positive for CWD. Tests are currently being performed on the brain tissue from Purple 4 at the Pennsylvania State Veterinary Laboratory in Harrisburg. The results from the second test have not yet been released by the Agriculture Department, but are expected later this week.
Purple 4 testing negative would be the next piece of good news that the Pennsylvania Game Commission and hunters need to hear. Since this escaped deer has been in the wild for over five months, if Purple 4 tests positive, there is concern that all hope of containing the disease behind deer-farm fences will be lost.
Based on the results of the deer movement studies conducted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, a deer — particularly a yearling buck –- that lived near Alexandria last summer could easily be 20 miles away in any direction by next fall. Therefore, the disease would be very difficult to contain once it enters the wild population.