Agency: No CWD check stations

Harrisburg — Facing two chronic wasting disease management areas this fall – double the zones involved in last year’s first go-round with CWD in Pennsylvania – the Game Commission is looking to cut costs and staff commitments.

“We are moving away from mandatory check stations” inside the disease management areas which cover about 1,500 square miles, said Calvin DuBrock, director of the commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management.

Earlier  this year, the commission established the state’s second disease management area  – also known as a DMA – in parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Huntingdon counties.

The action came after results of the commission’s annual statewide program of sampling hunter-killed deer found CWD in two deer, one taken in Bedford County and another taken in Blair County.

The first DMA in Pennsylvania was created by executive order in October 2012 and remains in effect for parts of Adams and York counties, where the first cases of CWD were discovered Oct. 10, 2012, in a small, captive herd on a deer farm at New Oxford, Adams County.

Fatal in deer, elk and moose, CWD is spread animal-to-animal through their saliva, urine and feces. The prions that cause it also can remain active in contaminated soil for many years.

As part of its response to the first case of CWD, last year the commission during the rifle deer hunting seasons and some other parts of the fall hunting seasons staffed a mandatory check station for all deer killed in the covered areas of Adams and York counties.

Among the restrictions placed over a DMA, the executive order makes it illegal to remove or export high-risk cervid parts from the DMA; makes all cervids killed in the DMA subject to testing by the commission; prohibits the rehabilitation of cervids within the DMAs, including injured and reportedly orphaned deer; bans the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants; prohibits direct or indirect feeding of wild, free-ranging deer; and eliminates any new commission permits to possess or transport live cervids.

However, DuBrock noted, with a doubling of the surveillance area this year, the commission’s “emphasis will be on sampling.”

He said commission staff is meeting with taxidermists and deer processors in the DMAs to enlist their help in setting up the voluntary deer-check programs that also will include commission drop stations.

The commission’s goal will be to sample a thousand deer from each DMA and, in its ongoing annual effort, 3,000 deer across the rest of the state.

In addition to the meetings with taxidermists and deer processors, the commission plans to hold a public meeting in each DMA in September, and will send letters about the new DMA regulations to all hunters living within the DMAs, said DuBrock.

CWD was first discovered in Colorado captive mule deer in 1967, and has since been detected in 21 other states and two Canadian provinces, including Pennsylvania’s neighbors New York, West Virginia and Maryland.

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