The Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) recently combined on an effort to further test wild deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) near a site that recently sold a captive deer that, at its new location, later was determined to be CWD-positive.
Several neighboring landowners in Fulton County gave permission for USDA-WS biologists, with extensive expertise in targeted deer removal, to take 30 wild deer for CWD testing. The Game Commission oversaw the effort and worked jointly with PDA and USDA-WS to collect biological samples. Deer were taken on March 22 and 23, and samples were submitted to the PDA Veterinary Services Laboratory for testing.
CWD was not detected in 29 deer. The meat from those deer was provided to families in need. However, CWD was detected in one deer, and results from follow-up tests on this deer came back Wednesday, confirming the deer was CWD positive.
Wayne Laroche, director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management, said the positive test from this sample size increases concern that more CWD-positive deer might be present in the immediate area where the deer was taken. Based on this evidence, the Game Commission will increase CWD sampling of road-killed and hunter-harvested deer in this area to learn more about the magnitude and distribution of the disease. The agency will work with landowners and hunters in this area to ensure that enough deer are tested.
No other shooting initiatives to collect additional samples for CWD testing are planned at this time.
News Release # 17-118
CONTROLLED BURNS TO IMPROVE HABITAT AND FOREST SAFETY
The Pennsylvania Game Commission this spring is conducting controlled burns to restore wildlife habitat and decrease the threat of wildfires on state game lands statewide.
Since 2009, the Game Commission has used controlled burns to improve wildlife habitat and restore sensitive habitats. In 2016, more than 10,000 acres of state game lands were treated with controlled burns.
“No other single management practice gives us such a broad range of habitat benefits,” explained Ben Jones, Habitat Division Chief of the agency’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management. “Those benefits include soil enrichment, invasive-plant reduction, mast-yield increases and wildfire threat reduction.”
Prescribed burns are conducted according to state law by highly trained crews with hundreds of hours of experience. Long before burn day, crews plan operations and establish fire-containment boundaries to ensure safety, both for themselves and the public. Crews coordinate with local emergency-response personnel before and during burns, as well as news media.
Controlled burns always occur on a relatively small percentage of the landscape, consequently their impact on wildlife during the burn is almost negligible. Although a burn might disrupt a few ground nests, those birds – including wild turkeys – often re-nest. The direct impact is small and benefits to the wildlife community far outweigh potential negatives.
Controlled burns in spring improve turkey habitat, especially for young broods. After a controlled burn, succulent regrowth provides poults cover and protein-rich bugs. These benefits often last more than five years.
Increased moisture usually suspends the spring fire season by late May. And since most nests don’t hatch until June, it’s unlikely that young birds would be harmed. The timing of these burns is critical. So is their need.
Access to specific burn locations will be limited on burn day, but will reopen soon after, usually by the next day. Burns dates will be released to local media before the treatment. Spring turkey hunters and other state game lands users can keep tabs on when and where the Game Commission is conducting controlled burns through a web map, accessible via the “Controlled Burn” link on the Game Commission’s website.