Once upon a time, deer hunting in the Valley was a critical part of providing for the family.
While today many hunters still use venison and other wild game to help augment their families’ meal options and stretch the budget, most in the Valley see the pursuit of deer in the late autumn more of a recreational activity, a tradition and a pastime.
Unless you are Melissa Beachel, who with her husband, Denis, runs Power View Whitetails near Danville. The deer they raise on their farm are sold for meat. While they do more than generate venison on the farm, the deer portion is still an important part of their annual income.
At least it was until the state placed a quarantine on the farm and 26 others across the state in light of two confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease in Adams County. The quarantine could last up to five years. For the next half-decade, the Beachels can’t sell their deer or can’t bring in new ones. Their deer operation has been frozen in place.
“You work so hard to follow all the regulations as honest people trying to do everything right. And now, we’re the ones who are stuck with deer that will need to be fed and cared for over the next five years and we can’t get anything in return,” said Melissa Beachel. “How are we supposed to manage that?”
Chronic wasting disease is a neurological illness that attacks the brain of cervids (deer, elk and moose), leaving behind lesions that ultimately kill the animal. There is no cure or vaccine. CWD is also contagious between deer via saliva, urine and feces.
The first confirmed case of CWD on the Adams County farm was reported in early October in a 3-year-old do that had died. State officials, worried about where the CWD came from, spent a large amount of energy tracing the path the infected doe took – starting at a Lycoming County farm years ago when it was first sold as a three-week-old fawn. From there, it lived at two other farms before making a home in Adams County.