The number of chronic wasting disease cases continues to multiply in Pennsylvania, and more of the state’s residents are being impacted by rules that aim to slow the spread of the disease, which always is fatal to the deer and elk it infects.
In 2017, chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in 78 free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania.
That’s more than three times the number of free-ranging, CWD-positive deer documented in the state in 2016, when 25 were detected.
Most of the new free-ranging positives – 75 of them – either were within or near the boundary of Disease Management Area 2 (DMA 2) in southcentral Pennsylvania. Three free-ranging CWD-positives were within or near DMA 3 in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Both of these DMAs have been expanded as a result of CWD-positive deer being detected near their boundaries.
And with the creation earlier this year of DMA 4, which was established after CWD was detected at a captive deer farm in Lancaster County, more than 5,895 square miles within Pennsylvania lie within DMAs, in which special rules apply to hunters and residents.
It’s unlawful to feed deer within DMAs. Hunters are prohibited from transporting high-risk parts (generally the head and backbone) from deer they harvest within a DMA to points outside a DMA. And the use or field possession of urine-based deer attractants also is prohibited within DMAs.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans stressed the importance of becoming familiar and complying with these rules.
“The escalating number of CWD detections and the sudden emergence of this disease in new parts of the state should put all Pennsylvanians on guard to the threat CWD poses and the disease’s potential to have damaging impacts on Pennsylvania’s deer and deer-hunting tradition,” Burhans said. “It’s important for each of us to take this threat seriously and do all we can to slow the spread of the disease where it exists.
“By discontinuing feeding of deer and curbing other behavior that induces deer to congregate, and potentially spread disease, and by responsibly disposing of high-risk deer parts and not transporting them outside DMAs, those living within DMAs can do their part in helping fight CWD,” Burhans said.
CWD sampling in 2017
In 2017, the Pennsylvania Game Commission tested 7,910 free-ranging deer and 128 elk for CWD. More than half of these deer – 4,753 – were associated with DMAs 2 and 3. Samples from 3,304 deer from DMA 2 and 1,449 deer from DMA 3 were tested.
And only within or near these DMAs did free-ranging deer test positive.
With the additional 78 CWD-positives, a total of 125 free-ranging CWD-positive deer have been detected in Pennsylvania since 2012 – all of them within DMAs 2 and 3.
CWD sampling increased in 2017, compared to the 5,707 deer and 110 elk collected in 2016 and tested. This largely is due to the Game Commission’s decision to provide free CWD testing for deer that hunters harvest within DMAs.
More than 1,533 deer harvested by hunters within DMAs were tested, at no cost to the hunter, after hunters deposited the heads from their deer in collection boxes set up in public areas. And 28 CWD-positive deer were identified through the collection boxes.
Since 2002, the Game Commission has tested over 69,000 deer for CWD.
In a state where CWD has been a growing problem, it’s important for hunters and residents to stay up-to-date on how DMA boundaries might have shifted due to the detection of new CWD-positives.
DMAs 2 and 3 have been expanded due to 2017 CWD sampling, and the newly established DMA 4 was put into place in February.
The most up-to-date maps and descriptions of DMA boundaries always can be found at www.pgc.pa.gov on the Chronic Wasting Disease page.
Due to an early print deadline and the number of samples that were tested for CWD, an updated DMA 2 map could not be included in the 2018-19 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.
DMA 2 now totals more than 4,614 square miles and includes parts of Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties, in addition to all or parts of Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.
Meanwhile, DMA 3 has been expanded to more than 916 square miles. It now includes parts of Armstrong, Cambria and Clarion counties, as well as parts of Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties.
And DMA 4 in parts of Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks counites encompasses 364 square miles.
Turn-by-turn descriptions of all DMA boundaries are available in the Game Commission’s executive order on CWD available on the Chronic Wasting Disease page at www.pgc.pa.gov.
While hunters are prohibited from removing high-risk deer parts from DMAs, the meat, hide and antlers attached to a clean skull plate may be removed from a DMA.
High-risk parts are where the CWD prion concentrates. They are: the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes, and lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone (vertebra); spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft material is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; and brain-tanned hide.
DMAP within DMAs
The Deer Management Assistance Program again will be employed within Pennsylvania’s DMAs in the 2018-19 deer seasons.
As with DMAP permits allocated elsewhere, hunters can obtain up to two permits in each unit. Each permit allows for the harvest of one antlerless deer, and the permits can be used within any open deer season – including the antlered-only firearms deer season.
Hunters with permits for DMA 4 (Unit Number 3468) can use them anywhere within the DMA. DMA 3 is split into three DMAP units: from north to south, Units 3466, 3045 and 3461. Hunters with permits for any of these units can use them within the unit’s defined boundary.
And there are six units within DMA 2: Units 3460, 2874, 3458, 2875, 4359 and 3468.
Maps and boundary descriptions for all units within DMAs are available on the Chronic Wasting Disease page at www.pgc.pa.gov.
Because DMAP units established within DMAs contain a mix of public and private land, hunters who obtain permits for these units need to make certain they have permission to hunt on land within the DMAP units.
DMAP permits cost $10.90 each and will be available beginning June 18.
All DMAP permit holders are required to submit reports on their success, regardless of whether a permit is used to harvest a deer. Hunters will be encouraged to provide deer heads for CWD testing. Intensive testing within these areas provides better understanding of distribution of disease across the landscape.
More on CWD
First identified in 1967, CWD affects members of the cervid family, including all species of deer, elk and moose. To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the disease is always fatal to the cervids it infects.
As a precaution, CDC recommends people avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CWD.
More information on CWD can be found at CDC’s website, www.cdc.gov.
There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine. Clinical signs of CWD include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death.
Much more information on CWD, as well as a video showing hunters how they can process venison for transport and consumption, is available at the Game Commission’s website.