CWD scare hits closer to home

(Photo by Bill Diers)

They say folks only really start worrying about a problem when it hits close to home. While I’ve always kept abreast of the chronic wasting disease issue in Pennsylvania, the latest announcement that CWD has been found in two more Pennsylvania deer farms — especially one in a neighboring county from my home — heightened my concerns for the issue.

On Monday, Feb. 12, the Department of Agriculture confirmed CWD in one white-tailed deer on a hunting preserve in Bedford County, and one at a Lancaster County breeding operation. Both deer, the first CWD-positives on either farm, were born and raised on their respective premises, which are now under quarantine.

As a resident of Lebanon County, just north of the Lancaster County border, I fear it is only a matter of time until the inevitable reaches my own backyard.

“The Department of Agriculture takes the emergence and spread of CWD in whitetail-deer in Pennsylvania very seriously,” said State Veterinarian Dr. David Wolfgang. ”Farmers with captive deer and other CWD-susceptible species must participate in one of two programs and follow specific procedures outlined for their program. The department is committed to cooperating with deer farmers, the Game Commission and foresters to keep deer populations in Pennsylvania healthy and at viable population levels.”

In response to the Lancaster County deer, which was the first CWD-positive test result in Lancaster County, the Pennsylvania Game Commission plans to announce a new Disease Management Area that will be established on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 1 p.m. at the agency’s headquarters.

The press conference will be live-streamed on the commission’s YouTube channel, where it will remain posted to view at later times. Following the press conference, Executive Director Bryan Burhans also will participate in a Facebook Live video to discuss CWD.

According to the Game Commission, CWD is always fatal to deer, elk and other cervids and was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2012 at a captive deer farm in Adams County. Since then, it has been detected among free-ranging deer in two areas of the state.

“In areas where CWD is detected in captive-raised or free-ranging deer, the Game Commission establishes disease management areas, within which special rules apply regarding the hunting, feeding and transport of deer,” a commission spokesman announced via press release.

“Hunters within disease management areas are prohibited from using urine-based deer attractants, or possessing them while afield. Deer harvested within such an area may not be transported whole outside the area. Their high-risk parts — including the head and backbone — must be removed and disposed of before meat, antlers and other low-risk parts are transported from the area. The feeding of deer is prohibited within disease management areas, as is the transport of live cervids.”

Lab results of DMA hunter-harvested deer are still coming in from the 2017-18 hunting seasons, but several new cases have already been confirmed beyond the 47 known cases across the state as of 2016. According to commission Special Assistant for CWD Response Wayne Laroche, that number is now up to at least 55 and growing.

There are several reasons for concern, and the future of white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania is one of them. No longer is CWD an out-of-sight, out-of-mind issue. It’s here, it’s spreading, and it’s not going away any time soon.

Categories: CWD, Pennsylvania – Tyler Frantz, Whitetail Deer