For years, chronic wasting disease was considered a credible threat lurking just over the state line. But CWD -- always fatal to deer, not contagious to humans -- crossed the line in 2012 when it was found in a farm-raised captive deer in Adams County. This year it was discovered in three free-ranging deer in Blair and Bedford counties. Last week, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced it has pivoted its CWD posture from prevention to containment and management of the disease.
During the 2013-14 statewide deer seasons, which begin with the Oct. 5 archery hunt, the agency will drop a requirement that successful hunters in two Disease Management Areas must register their harvests at a check station where biological samples are collected.
"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," said Cal DuBrock, director of the Game Commission's Bureau of Wildlife Management, in a written statement. "We have already begun collecting and testing samples to give us a clearer picture of the disease's impact, and we will 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."
The DMAs include a 600-square-mile zone in parts of York and Adams counties and 900 square miles in parts of Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Cambria counties. Hunters may not remove from a DMA carcass parts that have a high risk of transmitting CWD. Those include the head, skull plate with attached antlers and cape (if brain or spinal cord tissue is visible) and unfinished taxidermy mounts. Urine-based attractants are prohibited.
Successful hunters can remove venison and mounts from a DMA only after a cooperating processor or taxidermist approves those parts as safe for transport. Hunters who butcher their deer must dispose of high-risk parts at special dumpsters set up within the DMAs. CWD can be transmitted among deer through direct and indirect contact -- disposing of high-risk parts in places where free-ranging deer could be exposed increases the risk of spreading the disease.
DuBrock said the Game Commission will stop taking biological samples in the DMAs when 1,000 have been tested from each management zone, and hunters will be notified if samples taken from their harvests have tested positive for CWD.
Hunters who want their deer tested for CWD should put the head in a plastic bag, place it in a second plastic bag and take it to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture laboratory in Harrisburg. A fee will be charged for that service. Get details at www.agriculture.state.pa.us or by calling Department of Agriculture at 717-787-8808. Learn more about CWD at www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Share the harvest
With the special antlerless-only archery hunt in Wildlife Management Unit 2B now underway, hunters are encouraged to keep in mind the Hunters Sharing the Harvest Program, in which venison is donated to food banks, churches and social service programs to feed the hungry. In 2012, Pennsylvania hunters donated more than 100,000 pounds of venison.
Through the 2013-14 deer seasons, Consol Energy company will pay the processing fee typically paid by participating hunters at approved meat processors in Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties. Get details at www.sharedeer.org/meatprocessors.
Dutch Fork stocking
One year after the state Fish and Boat Commission agreed to sell natural gas extracted from beneath Dutch Fork Lake to help finance a $4.5 million repair on the storm-damaged dam, a series of warm-water stockings is reviving that Washington County impoundment. In July, Fish and Boat stocked 2,700 fingerling largemouth bass. This month the agency gave them something to eat with a planting of 4,500 fingerling bluegills.
Fly tying, casting
British Columbian steelhead angler and guide April Vokey will teach classes on Skagit fly casting and tying Intruder patterns Oct. 17 at International Angler in Robinson. Call 412-788-8088 for details.