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Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer Found In Franklin County, PA

Posted by Jennifer Smith on

Franklin County is now a part of Disease Management Area 2 following the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease among captive deer in the area. Local residents can learn more about how they can keep it from spreading at a seminar tonight at the Greencastle Sportsman’s Club, offered by Rep. Paul Schemel and Sen. John Eichelberger.

Disease Management Area 2 in southcentral Pennsylvania has been expanded to the east, increasing from 2,846 square miles to 4,095 square miles. DMA 2—which now extends from Adams County throughout southern Franklin County and west to Somerset—is the only area of Pennsylvania where CWD, which always is fatal to deer and elk, has been detected in free-ranging deer.

Not to be confused with rabies, CWD attacks the nervous system of deer populations and is caused by a type of mutated protein that is easily spread to other animals. The disease cannot be transmitted to people.

“What it does is it will slowly build up in the deer’s body as it ages. It gets to a point where it starts eating away at the brain and the central nervous system starts shutting down,” said Bert Einodshofer, state Game Commission information and education supervisor for the southcentral regional office in Smithfield Township, Huntingdon County. “The outward physical symptoms can mirror rabies in that the deer exhibits lethargic behavior, drooped ears and drooling, but it’s completely different and affects all members of the deer family, including elk and moose as well.”

CWS has the potential to affect large populations of deer, and spreads more quickly once more animals are affected, Einodshofer explained. The spread is caused through saliva contact or if the proteins are deposited.

“It’s an extreme concern for us because it’s a disease that’s almost impossible to eradicate,” he said. “The sooner it’s detected, the measures taken to reduce spread are critical. It will continuously spread exponentially if not kept in check or control, and over the long term it could have population reducing factors.”

The expansion of DMA 2 is a preventative measure to ensure proper management to keep this deadly disease from decreasing deer populations.

“There are some records of deer movement and dispersal of 100 miles or more, but the vast majority will disperse fewer than 10 miles, and this is why when DMAs are created or expanded, boundaries are drawn at least 10 miles from the site of a known positive,” said PGC spokesperson Travis Lau. “That said, the potential for CWD to spread, both in areas it exists and to new areas, is a serious threat to Pennsylvania’s deer and deer hunting, and is also a threat to the state’s elk. If one of these rare, yearling bucks that disperses dozens of miles was in fact CWD-positive, the disease potentially could be brought to a new area. The same goes for CWD-positive captive deer that might be sold and trucked to a new area, or harvested deer that are taken in another state or somewhere where CWD exists and brought to an area where it doesn’t.”

To discourage the spread of the disease, there are many things local residents can do.

“We have three disease management areas and our area is the only one that includes the wild deer population,” said Einodshofer. “The human influence can greatly enhance the spread, and even putting out a salt block or food source is not lawful in the DMA, and anyone in the state needs to be careful about this.”

Einodshofer explained the head and spine typically hold the disease in deer carcasses, so hunters should keep the deer in the disease management area that it’s harvested in rather than taking the deer to another area for processing.

However, care must be taken by everyone, not just hunters.

“This is everybody’s issue in the commonwealth, hunter or not, because if you feed birds and deer come in, non-hunters need to pay attention to this as well,” said Einodshofer. “The inadvertent feeding of deer is one thing and you can’t help when you have landscaping that’s attractive to deer, but high concentrated numbers will allow the disease to spread quicker.

It may be helpful to invite hunters onto private land for hunting during the appropriate season as well.

The PGC also collects samples from hunter-harvested deer and elk as well as those that appear sick or behave abnormally, and the state Department of Agriculture coordinates a mandatory surveillance program for more than 23,000 captive deer on 1,100 breeding farms, hobby farms and shooting preserves.

Re-posted from the Record Herald. Written by Dylan Miller on September 19, 2017.

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