Sunday, June 1, 2014

Whitetail Disease (CWD) Brings New Rules To Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye

All this needs is a sinister sound track.

First, chronic wasting disease (CWD) — an always-fatal malady that affects deer, elk and other cervids, for which there is no treatment and no cure — was something confined to the American West. Discovered in Colorado in 1967, it stayed there, within a research facility, before finally making the jump to wild elk in 1981.

Still, it was a non-factor among most hunters.

Then — to everyone's alarm and panic — in 2002 CWD showed up in white-tailed deer in Wisconsin, its first appearance east of the Mississippi River.

It's been spreading far and fast since.

New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta all discovered their first cases of the disease later that same year, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance. Utah joined the list of CWD-positive areas in 2003, New York and West Virginia in 2005, Kansas in 2006, Michigan in 2008, Virginia, Missouri and North Dakota in 2009, Maryland in 2011 and Texas, Iowa and Pennsylvania in 2012.
Get ready for the new reality that might bring.

Whenever and wherever the disease shows up, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, acting in accordance with the state's CWD response plan, establishes a disease management area, or DMA, around the infection site. DMA 3, for example — the newest and first in Western Pennsylvania — takes in about 350 square miles in Jefferson and Clearfield counties as well as a small piece of Indiana County. A map of it can be found at It's bordered by I-80 to the north, Route 36 to the south and west and routes 219 and 322 to the east.

A DMA designation brings with it new rules.

Hunters can't move any “high risk” deer parts — brains, tonsils, eyes, lymph nodes and backbones/spinal columns — from the area. They can take processed meat and finished taxidermy mounts home, but that's it.
Those urine-based scents so popular among hunters and archers in particular? You can't use them, or even have them in your possession, in a DMA. No one can feed deer, directly or indirectly, or take road-killed deer or deer parts out of the area either.

There likely will be extra doe permits issued in DMAs when the disease is found in the wild herd. That's what's happening in DMA 2 in Bedford and Blair counties this fall. After a lot of haggling among staff and board members, the Game Commission is likely to issue roughly 13,000 “DMA 2 antlerless deer permits” this fall in what will be a model for the rest of the state.

That's for deer. If and when the disease shows up in the state's elk herd, “the scale changes because those animals move a lot more than whitetails,” said commission veterinarian Justin Brown.

In such a scenario, the state's entire elk range — rather than just a portion around the infected animal — might be turned into its own disease management area, he said.

The world will be different, either way. Cue the scary music.

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