Chronic Wasting Disease found in wild Pennsylvania deer
The dreaded day has finally arrived. For the first time in 15 years, chronic wasting disease or CWD has been discovered in wild deer that were harvested during Pennsylvania’s regular rifle season last fall.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission released the news on March 1.
Two of the deer testing positive were shot in Blair County and one in Bedford County. Bedford County is just north of where CWD-infected deer have been discovered in Maryland and West Virginia.
A press conference in Harrisburg will provide more details. According to the agency, public meetings will be scheduled in both affected counties in the near future. Commission Executive Director Carl Roe had often said, “The disease is already here – we just haven’t found it yet.” Well – it has been found.
CWD is a brain disease that affects deer and elk. It is spread through direct contact between animals and through saliva, as well as liquid and solid wastes – the type of contact that regularly occurs at salt licks and artificial feeding areas. CWD can only be detected in brain tissue samples taken from dead deer. The disease is always fatal.
Since the results reported March 1 are from only about half of the 2,945 deer sampled by the Game Commission from last season, more positives might be revealed when the remaining test results are finalized. I hope not.
We seemingly survived a scare last fall when pen-raised deer from Adams County were found to have CWD. Two potentially infected deer even ran loose for an extended period of time. Even though I wasn’t happy with the way the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture handled the situation, all appeared to end well.
To make matters personally worse, the Blair County border is just a few miles southwest from my home in Centre County. I have done a lot of hunting in both Blair and Bedford counties over the years.
Now, we can only wait and see what course of action that the Commission takes. We as hunters and wildlife lovers can keep our fingers crossed and hope that no additional cases are found. Maybe we might be as lucky as the state of New York and contain this deadly disease before it becomes widespread.