Environment & Energy
11:00 am
Tue March 5, 2013

Chronic Wasting Disease Found in Wild PA Deer, Game Commission Unsure of Response

The state Game Commission is still working to determine how it will respond to an apparent outbreak of chronic wasting disease among Pennsylvania’s wild deer population.

The brain illness, fatal to deer but not harmful to humans, has been detected in the wild in Pennsylvania. It’s the first time the disease has been found in the commonwealth’s wild deer population in 15 years of testing.

The three positive test results came from wild deer killed in Blair and Bedford counties. The Game Commission isn’t ready to change any rules for the next hunting season until it receives test results from all of the nearly 3,000 killed deer samples taken statewide.

“We’re playing a waiting game,” said Cal DuBrock, director of the agency’s Bureau of Wildlife Management. “We know we have these three results but we still have results pending for somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 additional deer that were tested this year.”

Hunters and landowners are advised to contact the Game Commission if they see seemingly ill deer – though DuBrock noted the hunters that killed the deer that tested positive confirmed nothing about the animals seemed unusual.

Last fall, two captive deer tested positive for CWD on an Adams County farm. The wild deer that tested positive were roughly 50 miles from that farm, but only 20 miles from a Maryland site where CWD has been detected in wild deer.

DuBrock said since the disease has been found in West Virginia as well, finding it in the commonwealth was inevitable.

“We’ve been saying for many years, it’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said, “and I think we’ve arrived at when.”