HARRISBURG, PA - Since last year, 123 additional free-ranging deer have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in Pennsylvania, and Disease Management Areas 2 and 3 have been expanded again as a result of new cases.
Testing from the 2018 deer seasons show there are 250 known CWD cases in free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania since 2012.
New CWD cases were detected in the following counties: Bedford (65), Blair (10), Cambria (2), Franklin (3), Fulton (33), Huntingdon (4), Jefferson (1), Juniata (1), Perry (1), and Somerset (3).
The PGC tested 9,631 free-ranging deer and 122 elk taken in the 2018 seasons for CWD. To date, no free-ranging elk have tested positive for CWD, but 6,525 deer tested came from existing DMAs, with the remaining 3,106 deer tested from other areas in the state. The number of free-ranging deer tested increased significantly, compared to the 7,910 deer tested in 2017.
Due to the detection of CWD, in both captive and free-ranging deer, DMAs 2 and 3 have been expanded, while no changes will be made to DMA 4.
DMA 2 now covers more than 6,715 square miles, an expansion of 2,101 square miles since last year. It includes all or parts of Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Snyder, Somerset and Westmoreland counties. This expansion largely is due to the discovery of two new CWD cases in Juniata and Perry counties. Each of these cases is 20 miles or more away from the nearest previously documented case. Both of these deer were adults and one was displaying clinical symptoms of CWD at the time of death, which suggests CWD is established in the area and other deer in the area might already be infected.
CWD-infected deer, on average, do not display clinical symptoms of disease for 18 to 24 months.
DMA 3 has expanded by 203 square miles and now covers more than 1,119 square miles, due to the discovery of CWD in a captive deer facility in Clearfield County. The captive facility will remain under quarantine for five years from the date the positive test was confirmed. DMA 3 now includes all or parts of Armstrong, Clarion, Clearfield, Jefferson and Indiana counties.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in February announced that a buck tested positive for CWD on a hunting preserve near Curwensville. Shortly after, PGC warned the public that this positive would push the DMA into the elk range. However, after careful consideration, the commission opted to keep DMA 3 south of Interstate 80 and out of the elk range.
Commission CWD Coordinator Jared Oyster explained the justification behind this decision.
“Our first thought was to extend the DMA boundary into the elk range,” Oyster said. “However, after looking into the issue further, we decided it was best to keep the DMA boundary at I-80.
“If we would have extended the boundary into the elk range, it would have created several difficulties and risks, including the fact that elk hunters would not legally be able to transport their carcass to the mandatory check station, located in Benezette. Deer hunters within the DMA also would have been able to legally transport high-risk parts into a portion of the elk range, increasing the chance of CWD being introduced to that area. And, there were very few meat processors and taxidermists in that area to help. All of that said, we have plans to increase surveillance and collect additional CWD samples in the portion of the DMA bordering the elk range, so if it is present we can detect it as soon as possible,” Oyster said.
DMA 4 was established in February 2018 due to the discovery of CWD in a captive deer facility in Lancaster County. To date, no free-ranging deer have tested positive for CWD in DMA 4. DMA 4 covers 364 square miles and includes parts of Berks, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.
Hunters are prohibited from exporting high-risk parts from DMAs. High-risk parts include: the head — more specifically the brain, eyes, tonsils, lymph nodes; spinal cord/backbone; 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 commission will continue to offer DMAP opportunities within portions of DMAs. DMAP units are established in areas where increased surveillance is needed to determine the prevalence and spatial distribution of CWD. Hunters can purchase up to two DMAP permits for each DMAP unit. Each permit allows for the harvest of one antlerless deer, and permits can be used during any open deer season—including the antlered-only firearms deer season. DMAP permits cost $10.90 each.
DMAP permits for the same 10 DMAP units set up within DMAs 2 and 3 in 2018 will be available for purchase when licenses go on sale on Monday, June 17. However, due to the discovery of new positives, 10 new DMAP units will be created for the 2019-20 deer hunting seasons. Permits for these DMAP units will be available in the coming weeks.
Six DMAP units will be added to DMA 2, for a total of 15 DMAP units within the DMA. One DMAP unit will be added in DMA 3, around the captive deer facility that tested positive in February, for a total of 4 DMAP units. Hunters with DMAP permits for DMA 4 can use them anywhere within the DMA.
DMAP permits can be used only within the DMAP unit for which they are issued. Because DMAP units within DMAs might encompass a mix of private and public land, hunters with DMAP permits, as always, should know where they’re hunting and that they have permission to hunt there. Hunters are encouraged to submit deer heads for CWD testing. Samples submitted by hunters help the Game Commission understand the prevalence and distribution of the disease in the local area.
CWD first was identified in Colorado in 1967. CWD since has been detected in 26 states and three Canadian provinces. CWD is a fatal brain disease that affects members of the cervid family including deer, elk and moose.
Misfolded proteins called prions are believed to be the culprit of CWD. Prions are shed through saliva, urine and feces of infected animals.
On average, infected individuals don’t display symptoms for 18 to 24 months. Symptoms include lowered head and ears, weight loss, excessive drooling, rough-hair coat, uncoordinated movements, and, ultimately, death. Unfortunately, there is no cure or treatment for CWD.
To date, CWD has not been found to infect humans. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people avoid eating meat from CWD-infected animals.
For the most up-to-date maps and descriptions of DMA boundaries, visit www.pgc.pa.gov.