Franklin, Fulton deer tests CWD positive
Harrisburg — Two Pennsylvania deer farms are under quarantine after the discovery of a deer with chronic wasting disease.
The facilities have not been named by Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture officials. One is in Fulton County, though. That’s where the 4-year-old buck spent the first three and a half years of its life. The other – which includes a shooting preserve, where the buck was harvested by a hunter – is in Franklin County.
What’s to become of either remains to be seen.
David Wolfgang, state veterinarian with the Department of Agriculture, said quarantine rules limit the ability of either facility to move deer around.
They could conceivably trade deer with one another, he said. The Franklin County facility could choose to keep the other 40 or so deer within its preserve alive until at least next fall and allow hunters to shoot them. Or both could euthanize their herds.
Either way, he said, both will remain under quarantine for five years after the last potentially-exposed deer is gone.
Chronic wasting disease, as is well known by many around the country these days, attacks the brain of infected deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. Animals can get the disease through direct contact with saliva, feces and urine from an infected animal.
Symptoms include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior like stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk also may allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal, and there is no known treatment or vaccine.
Wolfgang is not expecting that the presence of this particular CWD-positive deer will mean an outbreak of disease, he said. Wolfgang said both facilities have good fences, and in the case of the preserve, the sick deer was confined in a relatively small space with other “shooter” deer, away from the facility’s larger herd.
“We are confident that the animals remaining on this preserve as truly under quarantine,” Wolfgang said.
Agriculture officials, in a press release, made a point of saying that the CWD-positive deer does not pose a health risk. It noted that, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “there is no strong evidence that humans or livestock can contact chronic wasting disease.”
“We want to stress that CWD is no danger to public health and has never been associated as a human health concern,” said Agriculture Secretary Russell C. Redding.
The presence of the deer may lead to changes by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, though.
The agency has been on the lookout for the disease within Pennsylvania since 1998. It first showed up in 2012 on captive deer in Adams County; it was later discovered in wild deer in Blair and Bedford counties and in farm-raised deer in Jefferson.
Around each discovery site, the commission has created disease management areas, places where there are special rules in place regarding everything from bans on feeding deer and using urine-based scent attractants to bans on moving certain high-risk deer parts.
The Fulton and Franklin county farms now under quarantine are not within any of the boundaries of the existing disease management areas.
Whether one of those will be expanded to take in this new location, or whether it will become its own disease management area, remains to be seen, said commission spokesman Travis Lau.
“Each hunting season we sample many of the deer harvested by hunters, both within our disease management areas and elsewhere in the state, and within Disease Management Area 2, we test every known road-killed deer for CWD,” said Game Commission executive director Matt Hough.
“So far this year, positive CWD tests have come back regarding seven road-killed deer within DMA 2, but we await results from more than 3,000 samples from hunter-harvested deer.
“When all of those samples are returned, we will make our decision on how the boundaries of existing disease management areas will change.”