Pa. Hunters Express Concern About Deer Disease
YORK, Pa. (AP) – No one is calling it a doomsday scenario for Pennsylvania’s wild deer herd.
Not yet at least.
But the first presence of chronic wasting disease from a deer in the state of Pennsylvania has created concern for hunters in York and Adams counties. Two captive deer from New Oxford have tested positive for the disease.
More than 100 hunters listened to a near-hour long presentation by the Pennsylvania Game Commission on CWD at the York Expo Center Thursday night. Hours after the meeting began, hunters continued to ask questions about the disease and what type of impact it would have on this year’s rifle season.
“If it gets out (in the wild population) ... are you familiar with what happened in Wisconsin?” Carl Leatherly of Dover Township asked. “They killed (thousands of deer) and they still have it. Once it’s here, it’s here.”
CWD is a fatal disease that attacks the neurological systems of deer, elk and moose. The disease has a long incubation period, sometimes taking years to manifest itself in telling signs like emaciation and excessive drooling. In fact, one of the captive deer that tested positive for CWD in Pennsylvania was a healthy-looking 2-year-old that weighed about 200 pounds.
Calvin DuBrock, Game Commission director of wildlife management, explained that since the disease is passed through a misshapen protein – or prion – and not through a virus or bacteria, the disease has been proven to spread directly and indirectly. Infected prions can remain in the soil, capable of spreading the disease for 16 years or more.
The only way to eradicate those prions in the soil is extreme and sustained heat – 1,500 degrees for more than 15 minutes – DuBrock said.
“This is a tough one,” DuBrock remarked about eradicating the disease.
When CWD reaches a wild herd, it can thin out a robust herd, DuBrock said, because the disease is difficult to isolate and infected animals stop breeding as they normally would.
“I don’t want people to panic,” Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl Roe said, “because there are lot of Pennsylvania hunters who go out to Colorado and hunt in areas that have had (CWD) for 40 some years. Is it something to be concerned about for people who consume the meat? Yes. ... We want people to be concerned and aware but not panic.
“We always said it wasn’t a question of if we were going to get it but when we were going to get it. And when seems to be here in the captive herd.”
More than a dozen times officials reminded the public no CWD has been confirmed from a deer in the wild. Yet during a presentation that lasted about 50 minutes, not one official mentioned that one deer escaped the captive farm in New Oxford before it could be tested. Only after questioned about it by residents, did officials address that deer.
Washington Township resident Tim Parrill asked officials why no fence currently stands around land in Dover Township that’s supposed to be under quarantine because it formerly housed the captive deer that tested positive for CWD. No barrier exists to keep out wild deer from the possibly infected soil.
Officials had no quick an- swer, causing many in the audience to shake their heads and raise their voices. Finally officials offered that they're “working on it.”
“No one trusts the Game Commission,” Leatherly said after the meeting.
Parrill said: “My question is, ‘They’re worried about the wild population, but the (infected prions could be) in the ground, why did they let the fence go down when it's supposed to be under quarantine?’ I didn’t get an answer.”
He finally left the meeting after about 90 minutes.
“They’re just blowing a lot of smoke,” Parrill said. “They’re not being honest with the reality of this situation.”
Asked what he thinks will happen if CWD reaches the state’s wild deer population, Parrill didn't hold back.
“It’s going to be a doomsday for the deer,” he said.
Chronic wasting disease
Reason for meeting: To answer questions regarding the 600-square-mile Disease Management Area (DMA) in York and Adams counties that has been established to monitor wild deer for chronic wasting disease.
Testing for CWD:
One checkpoint on state gamelands in East Berlin will test all deer harvested for CWD, but cooperating deer processors in the DMA will