State response proper
Nittany Mountain Hunting Preserve has 21 deer and offers — mostly to handicapped children and veterans — approximately 15 hunts per year. Despite the obvious financial hit the preserve will take, owner Michael Ficks thinks the state made the right call.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” Ficks said. “If there is something out there, we need to stop it. I respect the state for taking a hard stance on the issue.”
Chronic wasting disease is a neurological condition that attacks the brains of cervids (deer, elk and moose), causing lesions that eventually lead to death. It is believed to be transferred through direct contact between deer through saliva, urine or feces.
While chronic wasting disease is similar to mad cow disease in cattle and scrapie in sheep, there is no evidence that the disease affects humans. However, public health officials urge caution as research continues. There is no vaccine or cure for chronic wasting disease.
“There is no reason to believe there are any threats to the Sunbury area,” Pennsylvania Game Commission representative Jerry Feaser said. “More than 38,000 animals since 1998 — between those killed by hunters and others that seemed suspicious — have been tested for chronic wasting disease and not a single one has been positive.
“However, hunters and those in the general public who see a deer acting strangely should still take proper precautions. Report what you’ve found to the game commission or agriculture department.”
Signs of disease vary
Symptoms of deer with chronic wasting disease can be similar to those shown with other more common illnesses. Typically, deer with chronic wasting disease will show no symptoms at first, but eventually will start drinking and salivating excessively, lose a noticeable amount of weight, lose fear of humans and other predators and become disoriented and clumsy while walking or running.
“I just hope people don’t get scared off from hunting because of all this,” Ronald Reich said at his rural New Berlin farm where he tends to nearly 40 whitetailed and farrow deer. “We’re talking about a deer or two from a private farm versus a large population of healthy, active wild animals that people have been hunting safely and successfully for generations.”
For more information, go to www.agriculture.state.pa.us and click on the chronic wasting disease banner on the top of the page.
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