CWD issue not going away

Mike RaykoviczFor those hunters who think we’ve got the Chronic Wasting Disease problem licked here in New York, take heed as to what’s happening to our south in Pennsylvania.

Last year, Chronic Wasting Disease was discovered in Adams County in southern Pa. in farm-raised deer, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission did everything in its power to discover the extent of the disease and how many animals were infected. The agency breathed a collective sigh of relief when the infected animals were all accounted for and there were no reported outbreaks in wild deer.

About a week ago, it was dismaying to learn the PGC confirmed three hunter-killed deer taken in the 2012 general firearms deer season have tested positive for CWD. Two were from Blair County; the other was from Bedford County in the southcentral part of the state near the Maryland border. According to Pennsylvania officials, these are the first positive cases of CWD in free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania.

The three hunter-killed deer tissue samples were collected by Game Commission personnel during annual deer aging field checks conducted during the general firearms season for deer. The samples were tested and identified as suspicious by the Department of Agriculture as part of an ongoing annual statewide CWD surveillance program. The tissue samples were eventually confirmed to be positive for CWD by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

Pennsylvania has had an ongoing testing program and the three deer where CWD was discovered are the first to be confirmed in 15 years of testing. As a result of this discovery, the Game Commission is working to identify and engage the hunters who harvested these CWD-positive deer to confirm exactly where the whitetails were killed. A meeting of the Interagency CWD Task Force was later convened to discuss the new CWD-positive deer and possible additional actions to determine the prevalence and distribution of the disease within Pennsylvania, as well as to contain its spread.

New York hunters haven’t seen the spread of CWD in our state and no new cases have been reported since 2005. Since then, an intensive monitoring program was established by the DEC to sample deer in the area the disease was first discovered. Monitoring efforts for the month of April 2005 resulted in testing 290 deer samples from Oneida County, two from Madison County and 25 from Hamilton County. In late April of 2005, two wild white-tailed deer were confirmed to have CWD within the infected area. In July of 2010 the Oneida/Madison containment area was lifted as no new cases of CWD were detected.

The DEC annually examines 1,500 to 2,000 deer specimens to monitor for the presence of CWD, and in this ongoing program samples are collected from cooperating deer processors and taxidermists and are then processed by DEC personnel and sent to the New York State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for analysis. So far, so good, but hunters must do their part in preventing the spread of CWD here in New York by not moving deer shot in other states into New York without first boning out the meat. Currently, New York bans the importation of whole deer carcasses from 21 states and one Canadian province. Deer season may be seven months away but the level of awareness must be maintained to ensure CWD doesn’t gain a foothold here in New York.

Categories: CWD, New York – Mike Raykovicz

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