With the two-week firearms deer season (Nov. 26-Dec. 8) just around the corner, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is preparing for its annual statewide sample collection of hunter-killed deer to determine if chronic wasting disease (CWD) is present in the wild deer populations. However, this effort has taken on a new level of focus within the 600-square-mile Disease Management Area (DMA) in Adams and York counties, where two captive-raised deer were determined to have been infected with CWD.
Statewide, Game Commission deer aging teams will begin collecting deer heads beginning on Wednesday, Nov. 28 the third day of the state’s two-week rifle deer season. The heads will be taken to the six Game Commission Region Offices, where samples will be collected for testing.
“We will be attempting to collect 3,000 samples from hunter-killed deer throughout the state,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “However, within the DMA, we will collect samples throughout the two-week rifle deer season from all hunter-killed deer, as well as any road-killed deer and deer culled from the Gettysburg National Battlefield. It is important to remember that no wild deer have been found to be infected with CWD.
“For those hunters within the DMA, we are going to do our best to make checking a deer as convenient as possible. However, for those who willfully take deer outside the DMA without having it checked or without leaving high-risk deer parts within the DMA, they need to understand that they will be cited for violating the Executive Order that was issued on Oct. 17. In addition to facing a fine, the agency will confiscate the deer from the hunter as contraband and no replacement tag would be provided in such a situation.”
As part of the Executive Order, the Game Commission designated a 600-square-mile Disease Management Area in Adams and York counties; banned the movement of high-risk deer parts outside of the DMA; required hunters to take deer harvested within the DMA to a check station for sample collection; prohibited the use of urine-based deer attractants within the DMA; and prohibited the feeding of deer within the DMA.
Roe noted recent survey results of 2,000 residents in Adams and York counties show an overwhelming number of those who currently hunt plan to continue deer hunting, but will look forward to learning more about the recent developments involving CWD. The Game Commission employed Susquehanna Polling and Research, in Harrisburg, to conduct the survey.
“Only 19 percent of the respondents said they were very concerned about CWD, 51 percent said they were somewhat concerned and 29 percent said they were not concerned at all,” Roe said. “However, the majority of respondents 75 percent said their behavior won’t change. Of those who will change their behavior, 12 percent said they would learn more about CWD and 9 percent said they would handle venison more carefully.
“Checking all hunter-killed deer in the DMA is an enormous task, and the success of this effort will rest with hunters cooperating with the Game Commission. Hunters have the option to bring deer harvested within the DMA to either our check station on State Game Land 249 in Adams County or to any deer processor or taxidermist within the DMA, specifically the 14 facilities acting as direct cooperators for the Game Commission. Our deer aging teams, who also collect samples for CWD testing, will be visiting all of the processors within the DMA to gather samples for testing, too.”
In addition to the one check station established by the Game Commission on State Game Land 249, the agency has reached agreement 14 processors and taxidermists in the DMA to serve as direct cooperators. More processors and taxidermists may be added to the list, so hunters should continue to monitor the listings posted on the “CWD Info” page on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us).
“All processors and taxidermists within the DMA will be recognized by the Game Commission as check stations, including those who are serving as direct cooperators,” Roe said. “Hunters will simply need to take their deer to any of these facilities within the DMA, and the Game Commission will be visiting each of the facilities to gather the necessary samples.
“While this may require some hunters to alter their preference of where they have their deer processed or mounted, it will help ensure that any potentially high-risk deer parts remain within the DMA. Doing so will fulfill the requirements of the agency’s Executive Order that high-risk deer parts remain within the DMA and that hunters who harvest a deer take their deer to a check station.”
The seven deer processors who will participate as direct cooperators for the Game Commission are:
- Stevens Butcher Shop, 112 Center Mills Rd., Aspers, 717-677-8219
- Dwight Nell Custom Butchering, 130 Beaver Creek Rd., East Berlin, 717-259-9445
- Butcher Block Meats, 3055 Biglerville Rd., Biglerville, 717-579-8763
- Gary’s Meat Locker, 236 Poplar St., Hanover, 717-633-6773
- Wantz Brothers, 6346 Wantz Lane, York, 717-252-2011
- Weaver’s Butcher Shop, 1402 Centennial Rd., New Oxford, 717-624-2879
- Rick Messinger, 8184 Orchard Rd., Thomasville, 717-225-9603
The seven taxidermists who will participate as direct cooperators for the Game Commission are:
- High Expectations Taxidermy, 135 Cedar Hill Dr., Dover, 717-503-2600
- Outback Imagery Taxidermy, 7503 Carlisle Pike, York Springs, 717-528-4802
- Leakway Taxidermy, 855 Pleasant Grove Rd., York Haven, 717-266-9410
- Prowell’s Taxidermy, 1305 Sheepbridge Rd., York, 717-266-2180
- Tall Tail Taxidermy, 800 Old Hanover Rd., Spring Grove, 717-855-3909
- Hickory Taxidermy, 196 Hickory Rd., Littlestown, 717-359-5656
- Becker’s Taxidermy, 315 Hollywood Ave., New Oxford, 717-624-4675
Roe added that hunters harvesting a deer within the DMA who process their own deer or who would like to take their deer to a processor or taxidermist outside of the DMA can visit the Game Commission-operated check station at the agency’s maintenance building on State Game Land 249, 1070 Lake Meade Road, East Berlin, Adams County. GPS coordinates for the building are -77.07280 and 39.97018. Samples will be collected and the carcass will be marked to indicate it has been presented to the check station. Hunters will be able to take antlers or caped heads with them from the station. For hunters leaving the DMA, the deer carcass will be quartered so that low-risk material can leave the DMA, but high-risk deer parts will remain at the check station for disposal.
Game Commission check station hours during the two-week rifle deer season are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday-Saturday, but will remain open beyond 8 p.m., as needed. Also, the check station will be opened on Sundays, Dec. 2 and 9, from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“To expedite the process, hunters should bring deer into the check station with the deer head accessible and, if it is in a pickup truck, with the head pointed to the tailgate,” said Brad Myers, Game Commission Southcentral Region director. “Also, hunters should not wait until evening to bring deer in, but bring them throughout the day. This is especially important if the weather is warm.
“This station will not be checking or processing bears. Bear hunters should take their bears to established check stations, which are outlined on pages 37 and 38 of the 2012-13 Digest. Also, deer harvested outside of the DMA will not be eligible for testing at the check station.”
CWD testing of healthy appearing hunter-killed deer outside the DMA is available. Hunters who wish to have their deer tested may do so for a fee by making arrangements with the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostics Laboratory System. For information visit http://www.padls.org, or call the Pennsylvania Veterinary Laboratory (717-787-8808) in Harrisburg, The Animal Diagnostics Laboratory (814-863-0837) in State College, or the New Bolton Center (610-444-5800) in Kennett Square.
On Oct. 11, the state Department of Agriculture announced that a captive deer died of CWD on a deer farm in Adams County. Prior to its death, this deer had potentially spent time on three sites in Adams and York counties, which are now part of the Game Commission’s designated DMA. As soon as the CWD-infected captive deer was found, the Commonwealth’s CWD Interagency Task Force was initiated to address the threat of the disease to captive and wild deer and elk populations in the state. On Nov. 7, the state Department of Agriculture announced that a second captive deer tested positive for CWD from the same deer farm in Adams County.
Task force members include representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Health, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey/Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Penn State University/Cooperative Extension Offices. The task force will carry out the response plan, which includes education and outreach with public meetings and minimizing risk factors through continued surveillance, testing and management.
A 40-minute video with Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, explaining CWD has been posted on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), and can be viewed by clicking on the “CWD Info” icon button in the center of the homepage and then scrolling down to the imbedded viewer.
For more information from the departments of Agriculture and Health and the Pennsylvania Game Commission, visit the following agency website’s:
www.agriculture.state.pa.us (click on the “Chronic Wasting Disease Information” button on the homepage),
www.pgc.state.pa.us (click on “CWD Info”), and
www.health.state.pa.us (click on “Diseases and Conditions”).