HARRISBURG, Pa. — Editor's Note: The video above is from February 2019.
The Wolf Administration on Monday released a report detailing the coordinated efforts of state and federal agencies and Pennsylvania research institutions to combat Chronic Wasting Disease, a contagious, fatal disease that threatens the commonwealth's deer.
The report outlines the status of the disease in Pennsylvania, as well as the work in progress to offer testing and other services to hunters, help deer farmers maintain their livelihoods, and diminish disease spread and environmental impact.
“CWD threatens one of Pennsylvania’s prized natural resources,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said in a press release announcing the report. “This administration has taken aggressive steps to contain the disease through a scientific, fact-based approach. We are using new genetic testing tools to help predict which deer will contract the disease, funding research to help better understand and trace the disease and working together strategically to control its spread.”
CWD is a highly contagious disease that develops very slowly in the lymph nodes, spinal tissue and brains of deer and similar animals like reindeer and elk. It does not affect other livestock. There is no evidence that it can be spread to humans.
“The Department of Health is committed to a healthy Pennsylvania,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said in the press release. “There is a lot we still need to learn about the impact CWD has on human health. That is why it is essential that each individual remains vigilant to reduce the risk of human exposure to CWD.”
“As a member of the CWD Task Force, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is committed to working with other agencies and stakeholders to combat the spread of CWD through public education and outreach, effective deer management strategies, increased testing and other public policy initiatives based on sound science,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Although there is still work to be done, DCNR applauds the administration’s leadership and efforts of the collective agencies to prevent the further spread of this disease.”
“Managing Chronic Wasting Disease is one of the greatest wildlife challenges we face,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “It requires that we marry the best science with hunter cooperation over the long term. The good news is that wildlife managers and hunters partnered to save deer and deer hunting once before, more than a century ago. Our ability to succeed again now is dependent on the support of our hunters and private landowners to help us combat this disease.”
The report offers advice hunters and others can follow to minimize risks and links to key disease-prevention resources.
- Participate in testing. Free testing is available for any deer harvested in a Disease Management Area, or DMA. If you harvest a deer deposit the head, with your completed harvest tag affixed to the deer’s ear, in a head collection container.
- If you are hunting within a DMA, before you leave the DMA, deposit high-risk parts from your deer in a high-risk parts disposal dumpster. High-risk parts include the head, lymph nodes, spleen, and spinal column. You may also dispose of any other unused deer parts in these dumpsters.
- Do not shoot, handle or consume an animal that appears sick; report the animal to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
- Submit harvest tags and samples while hunting in CWD DMAP areas.
- Wear gloves when handling any cervid carcass and follow proper guidelines for processing venison.
- Have dedicated knives and utensils for processing game meats.
- Refrain from consuming high-risk tissues and organs (brain, heart, etc.)
- Avoid use of natural urine-based lures.
- If unable to deposit in DMA disposal dumpster, double bag high-risk parts and dispose of in an approved landfill.
The report was compiled by Pennsylvania’s Chronic Wasting Disease Taskforce, formed in 2003 to develop a strategic response to the disease first detected in the U.S. in 1967 in the Pennsylvania in 2012.
The task force includes the Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources, Environmental Protection and Health, and the PA Game Commission, as well as the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.