Pennsylvania Game Commission Makes Regulation Changes to Stop Chronic Wasting Disease Outbreak

It's been a rough year for whitetails. This summer brought about several outbreaks of EHD, which left a slew of dead whitetails in its path, and an increasing number of confirmed chronic wasting disease (CWD) cases have continued to turn up across the country.

On October 11, Pennsylvania reported its first case of CWD in a captive-born and raised whitetail on a farm in Adams County. In response, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) issued an executive order outlining a disease management area (DMA). The DMA covers a 600-square miles area in Adams and York counties.

The PGC will be working with hunters in the DMA to manage the disease and help prevent it from spreading. Some high level highlights of the DMA plan include:

1. Hunters within the DMA are not allowed to take high-risk parts of the deer outside of the DMA including the head with brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes, spinal cord, spleen, antler plate with attached antlers if spinal chord tissue or brain tissue is present, upper canine teeth if root structure or other soft tissue is present. The PGA will contract with processors to help hunters move their harvested deer outside of the DMA without the high-risk parts.

2. Hunters who kill a deer during the two-week firearms season (November 26 through December 8) within the DMA are required to bring their deer to a mandatory check station where samples will be collected for CWD testing. Outside of this period the check station is voluntary, but encouraged. The PGC says this will give it enough of a sample that it will not need to cull deer just for testing (the only way to test for CWD is through brain tissue which requires the animal to be dead).

3. Hunters will also be banned from using any urine-based attractants because they cause deer to congregate and increase the likelihood of CWD spreading.

4. Feeding deer is also prohibited as it causes deer to come together and increases the chances of CWD spreading.

5. Individuals with a menagerie permit are prohibited from transporting live deer into or out of the DMA and no new menagerie permits will be issued within the DMA.

Three other deer farms have been quarantined after being directly associated with the positive deer at the location in Adams County. The quarantine prevents the movement of any CWD susceptible animals on and off the premises.

The PGC has been monitoring the deer herd for CWD since 1998 and has a mandatory CWD monitoring program to test 23,000 captive deer on 1,100 breeding farms and shooting preserves. Since 1998, the Game Commission has tested over 38,000 free-ranging deer and elk for CWD, and all have tested negative.