Chronic wasting disease was not detected in any of the samples collected from deer harvested by hunters during the 2013-14 Pennsylvania hunting seasons, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced today.
However, two deer killed on highways in Bedford County late last fall tested positive for the disease.
Additionally, the disease has turned up at another captive deer facility in Pennsylvania, and was detected in a free-ranging deer just south of the Pennsylvania border.
All of these newly confirmed cases mean the Game Commission’s use of Disease Management Areas with special regulations to manage the disease will occur over a larger area in 2014-15.
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is not known to afflict humans, but is always fatal to the deer and elk it infects.
DMA 2 expands
The two CWD-positive deer from Bedford County were killed within what is known as Disease Management Area 2 (DMA 2), where special rules already have been implemented to slow the spread of the disease. The CWD-positive deer from Maryland died at a site just 6 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and directly south of DMA 2.
Because of these new positives, DMA 2 has expanded significantly. The new boundary extends east to state routes 829 and 915, and Interstate 70.
DMA 2 now extends south to the Maryland border. South of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the western boundary of DMA 2 is state Route 96.
The expansion of DMA 2 follows procedures set forth in Pennsylvania’s CWD Response Plan.
A map of the newly expanded DMA 2 is available on the CWD Information page at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. A detailed description of the exact boundary, which includes roads other than those listed, will be provided in the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest issued to hunters at the time they purchase their licenses.
Hunters harvesting deer within a DMA are not permitted to remove from the DMA any deer parts with a high risk of transmitting the disease. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including taking a deer to an approved deer processor or taxidermist outside the DMA, or traveling to an approved laboratory for disease testing.
The use of urine-based deer attractants also is prohibited within a DMA, as is the direct or indirect feeding of deer. A complete list of rules applying to DMAs can be found in an executive order of the Game Commission, which also is available at the agency’s website.
The head, not including detached antlers that are absent visible brain matter, is among a list of high-risk parts, which also is outlined in detail in the executive order.
DMA 2 was established in 2013 after three deer harvested by hunters in Blair and Bedford counties tested positive for CWD. Now that it has been expanded, DMA 2 includes parts of Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon, Cambria and Fulton counties, and encompasses more than 1,600 square miles.
The 600-square-mile DMA 1 was established in 2011 in York and Adams counties after CWD was detected at a captive deer facility there.
Meanwhile, the Game Commission continues to develop its response to the CWD-positive deer case in Jefferson County. The plan figures to include the establishment of Pennsylvania’s third Disease Management Area.
An announcement will be made when the response plan is completed.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has placed under quarantine the Jefferson County deer farm where the CWD-positive deer died, and the Northampton County deer farm where it was born.
The Game Commission and state Department of Agriculture will continue disease surveillance across Pennsylvania, following guidelines set forth in the agencies’ cooperative response plan.
CWD sampling from 2013
All sampling associated with the 2013-14 deer seasons has been completed.
During 2013, the Game Commission collected and tested samples from 5,120 deer statewide. In DMA 1, 738 samples – 271 of them from hunter-harvested deer – were collected and tested. In DMA 2, 1,060 samples – 618 of them from hunter-harvested deer – were collected and tested.
Elsewhere in the state, 3,322 samples – 3,209 from hunter-harvested deer – were collected and tested.
Of those samples, only the two Bedford County roadkills tested positive for the disease.
Since 1998, the Game Commission has gathered and submitted more than 48,000 samples from wild deer and elk for CWD testing. A total of five free-ranging deer have tested positive.
While chronic wasting disease is new to Pennsylvania, it is not a new disease. CWD was discovered in 1967, and it has been researched in great detail since then. Scientists believe CWD is caused by an unknown agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form.
CWD affects members of the cervid, or deer family. It is spread from animal to animal by direct and indirect contact.
There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately death. Any animals suspected of having CWD should be reported to the Game Commission.
There currently is no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating the meat of infected animals. As a precaution, however, people are advised not to consume meat from animals infected with CWD.
Much more information on CWD, as well as a video instructing hunters on how they can process venison for transport and consumption, is available at the Game Commission’s website.
(Source: Pa. Game Commission)