HARRISBURG, PA - Pennsylvania’s statewide deer seasons have come to a close, and within the next several weeks, final chronic wasting disease test results will return from deer harvested by hunters in the 2017-18 seasons.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission collects samples from deer harvested across the state and tests them for chronic wasting disease (CWD), as part of the agency’s ongoing CWD surveillance.
Within the state’s Disease Management Areas – where the disease has been detected in captive and free-ranging deer – intensified sampling occurs.
This past hunting season, the Game Commission offered free CWD testing for hunters harvesting deer within Disease Management Areas (DMAs). Free testing offered hunters a way to have their deer tested prior to consuming it, and it provided the Game Commission with additional samples to better pinpoint areas where the disease exists, so specific problem spots might be addressed.
Successful hunters within DMAs dropped off heads from more than 1,500 deer in the boxes. About 1,000 of these samples already have been tested for CWD, with the results reported to hunters.
Additionally, Game Commission staff collected more than 3,000 other samples within DMAs to test for CWD. In total, nearly 8,000 samples were collected statewide. Slightly more than 5,700 whitetails were tested for CWD in 2016; 25 tested positive, all were in or near DMA 2, the only area of the state where CWD has been detected in the wild.
At this time, 51 deer from the 2017-18 hunting seasons have tested positive for CWD. All have been within the DMAs. Forty-eight were within DMA 2, in southcentral Pennsylvania; and three were within DMA 3 in northcentral Pennsylvania.
But the majority of samples collected still are being analyzed.
Wayne Laroche, the Game Commission’s special assistant for CWD response, said the agency will continue to assess the incoming test results to evaluate the best response to confront CWD where it exists. DMA boundaries regularly have been adjusted in relation to newly detected CWD-positive animals. And last year, the Game Commission teamed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a CWD surveillance effort where 30 deer were removed by sharpshooters and one CWD-positive deer was detected.
“By developing a control program where we go into these hotspots and remove the animals with a greater likelihood of carrying the disease, we might stand our best chance of controlling CWD on a larger scale, while minimizing the impact on the larger deer population or diminishing deer hunting opportunities,” Laroche said.
CWD is not a new disease, and other states have decades of experience dealing with CWD in the wild. It first was detected in Pennsylvania in 2012 at a captive deer facility, and it was detected in free-ranging deer soon after. To date in Pennsylvania, CWD has been detected in 98 free-ranging deer.
CWD is spread from deer to deer through direct and indirect contact. The disease attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, and will eventually result in the death of the infected animal. There is no live test for CWD and no known cure. There also is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans, however, it is recommended the meat of infected deer – or deer thought to be sick – not be consumed.
For more information on CWD, the rules applying within DMAs or what hunters can do to have harvested deer tested for CWD, visit the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Information can be found by clicking on the button titled “CWD Information” near the top of the homepage.
Final CWD test results from the 2017-18 deer seasons will be released when available.