The battle to control chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania is expanding into new areas, including most of Snyder County.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission maintains three Disease Management Areas (DMA) across the state to control CWD, and one of those — DMA 2 — will now include Snyder and Union counties. DMAs are geographic regions featuring special rules for hunters and the general public meant to slow the disease’s spread while increasing chances of detecting it.
The reason why is simple: More sick deer showing up in more places.
DMA 2, for example, which accounted for 200 of last year’s new cases of CWD, is now approximately 7,470 square miles. That’s up from 6,715 last year. It expanded west into Westmoreland County as the result of a CWD-positive adult doe struck by a vehicle, northwest into Cambria and Indiana counties as the result of CWD-positive captive deer facilities, and north into Centre County and Mifflin, Union, and Snyder counties as the result of two CWD-positive adult bucks picked up as roadkills.
According to Andrea Korman, the agency’s CWD biologist, the Game Commission tested 15,686 free-ranging deer and 161 free-ranging elk in 2019. The vast majority of those were hunter-harvested animals.
Of the total, 204 white-tailed deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease. The top three counties for CWD-positive deer were Bedford County (99 new cases), Fulton County (56 new cases) and Blair County (30 new cases). Other counties that had at least one CWD-positive deer included Cambria, Franklin, Huntingdon, Indiana, Jefferson, Juniata, Somerset and Westmoreland.
Once again, no elk were found with CWD.
As for the special rules within Disease Management Areas, it’s illegal to move high-risk parts outside their boundaries. High-risk parts include the head (more specifically the brain, eyes, tonsils, lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft material is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; and brain-tanned hide.
Hunters are also prohibited from using natural urine-based attractants. Feeding of deer is prohibited, too.
Hunters will notice a change in their opportunities to harvest deer within Disease Management Areas this fall.
In years past, the Pennsylvania Game Commission offered Deer Management Assistance Program, or DMAP, permits within DMAs. Most of those are going away this fall.
But that’s because of changes to seasons.
“At the April 2020 Commission meeting, Game Commission staff recommended and the board of commissioners approved increased antlerless licenses in Wildlife Management Units where CWD had been detected. In addition, the board of commissioners approved a 14-day concurrent firearms season for antlered and antlerless deer in these WMUs to provide more hunting opportunity,” said Christopher Rosenberry, the Game Commission’s Deer and Elk Section Supervisor. “The antlerless deer license increases and concurrent seasons in these areas eliminate the need for DMAP permits in CWD areas. Because of this, most DMAP units from past years, created specifically for CWD management, have been eliminated.”
That said, some CWD-related DMAP permits may be available in August.
The Game Commission’s CWD Response Plan will be presented to the Board of Game Commissioners at the July 2020 meeting for consideration. If the board votes to accept the Response Plan, a number of “Enhanced Surveillance Units” will be established in areas where DMA boundaries have been expanded. Within Enhanced Surveillance Units, additional DMAP permits will be available to increase opportunities for hunters to harvest deer and provide samples for CWD testing.
“Details on availability of DMAP permits within Enhanced Surveillance Units will be released by Aug. 1,” Rosenberry said.