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Lawmakers, officials brainstorm ideas for curtailing spread of CWD

HARRISBURG, P.A. --- Chronic Wasting Disease continues to pop up across the commonwealth.

Last week, three deer from two farms, including one in Lancaster County, tested positive for the incurable and always fatal brain disease.

That brings the total to 49 deer in Pennsylvania since the disease was first found in Adams County in 2012.

Jarrid Barry, president of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association, said he believes their members receive unfair blame for the spread.

He said their farmers abide by all the Department of Agriculture's quarantine, assessment and euthanasia requirements, while also committing thousands of dollars to research.

"We deer farmers have a vested interest in containing and, if possible, eliminating the disease. If our herds are not healthy, we lose our livelihoods," said Barry.

John Kline with the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs said they work to inform hunters of responsibility while in Disease Management Zones

The PA Game Commission expects to spend more than $1.5 million this year to address wild herds, which Kline said includes money coming out of the game fund.

He asked legislators for appropriations to the game commission to do more to address CWD in the wild.

"That money is supposed to be used for reasonable management of wildlife. Reasonable management. It's our opinion that Chronic Wasting Disease...we're way beyond a reasonable case here. This is a crisis," said Kline.

The Game Commission, who oversees wild deer herds, has implemented numerous efforts to stop the spread.

That now includes a ban on high risk parts, which is the head and spine of the animal, from entire states: New York, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland.

On the other hand, the Department of Agriculture, who holds jurisdiction over private farms, supports a ban on high risk parts while also pushing for required Harvest Tag Identification on all CWD susceptible species.

Both agencies asked for legislation allowing more collaborative enforcement, such as with taxidermists, to survey both private and wild deer as a collective herd.

dr. Kevin brightbill/asst. Director, pa department of agriculture: "the approach to addressing cwd must be comprehensive, and inclusive, and must use the best available science; both short and long-term solutions will be required," said Dr. Kevin Brightbill, assistant director of the PA Department of Agriculture.

Of the many takeaways, some included deer farmers support for further research into electric fencing to further separate private deer from the wild.

Sportsmen said they would consider an increase on hunting license fees to help with further funding for the Game Commission.

The conversation also included advancing research into the effectiveness of live animal testing when surveying for deer infected with CWD.