Last year's discovery of chronic wasting disease in free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania has changed the rules for hunters harvesting deer. The Game Commission must focus on managing the disease rather than trying to prevent it, says Calvin DuBrock, director of the Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management.
"Now that we know CWD is in the wild, our mission is to determine how prevalent it is in the areas in which it's been found, and to do what we can to slow its spread," he adds. "We've already begun collecting and testing samples to give us a clearer picture of the disease's impact.
"We'll be asking hunters within the state's two disease management areas to comply with special rules. But there won't be quite so many demands on hunters this year in relation to our monitoring."
DMA 1 encompasses a 600-square-mile area of York and Adams counties. DMA 2 spans nearly 900 square miles in parts of Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Cambria counties. Detailed maps with their borders, roads and water courses are available at www.pgc.state.pa.us , and also on pages 53 and 54 of the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.
Within those DMAs, hunters don't need take their harvests to a check station where samples can be collected for disease testing. The commission will use other methods to determine CWD prevalence in those areas.
Deer carcass parts with a high risk of transmitting the disease cannot be removed from those DMAs. So if you're a hunter living outside those DMAs, you'll need to plan how to dispose of those high-risk parts.
High-risk parts include the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides.
Disposal of high-risk parts
Because the disease is transmitted from deer to deer both directly and indirectly, and because the prion that causes it can live in the soil – perhaps forever, hunters should never dump high-risk deer parts where live deer might come in contact. Using a cooperating processor or taxidermist assures that high-risk carcass parts properly disposed of. Those parts also can be bagged for removal to a landfill.
Hunters within the DMAs also can take high-risk parts to dumpster sites on state game lands. Two collection dumpsters will be set up in each of the two DMA. The dumpsters will be available for use from the first day of the archery deer season until the close of the flintlock muzzleloader season (Oct. 2 to Jan. 11).
Hunters also are urged to never shoot deer that appear sick. Instead, report unhealthy deer to the nearest Game Commission regional office for further investigation.
Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death. There's no scientific evidence that CWD can spread to humans.