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PA targeting Chronic Wasting Disease

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    The captive deer-raising industry is big business in Pennsylvania and all over the country. The first case of CWD detected in Pennsylvania was on a captive deer farm in Adams County. LISA PRICE/TIMES NEWS

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Published May 25. 2019 12:23AM

Pennsylvania’s Game Commission is 100 percent committed to managing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) which affects deer, elk and other members of the Cervidae family. Early this year, PA officials met with colleagues from various CWD-affected states, to evaluate the success rates of various strategies.

CWD review – Can be spread from deer to deer or indirectly through contaminated environments (shed by deer saliva, urine or feces). It is always fatal and no cure or vaccine exists. Prevention is crucial.

Through meetings with experts from other states, PGC officials learned that among the various management strategies attempted, two techniques in combination work: increased antlerless allocations and targeted removals/culling in CWD areas.

That’s what has worked in other states, especially in Illinois. Here’s a comparison, as detailed by the PGC’s CWD Communication Specialist, Courtney Colley:

“Illinois and Wisconsin both detected their first cases of CWD in 2002 and as a result increased hunter harvest and implemented culling the following year,” Colley said. “Due to public pushback, Wisconsin was forced to end all culling efforts.”

“In 2007, in Wisconsin, CWD had spread and increased, with 50 percent of the bucks affected in some areas,” she added. “Illinois, however, has been able to keep a low prevalence – about 2 percent – through increased harvest and culling.”

Colley said that CWD was detected in New York in 2005, when five deer tested positive in two captive-deer breeding facilities. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) jumped on it.

“The DEC responded by quickly creating a containment area and sampling more than 300 deer in the immediate area – through these efforts two positives were detected in the wild,” Colley said.

“As a result, the DEC increased hunter harvest and culling around these positives within weeks, and since then, no more deer have tested positive for CWD in New York.”

The PGC has set the antlerless allocations, with many increases in WMUs (Wildlife Management Unit) as a reaction to increases in deer populations and noted poor forest regeneration. In the Times News coverage area, allocation increases range from 2,000 to 6,000 (4C, from 30,000 to 36,000).

In Pennsylvania, CWD has been detected in free-ranging deer in a number of WMUs, 2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D. In those areas, the PGC has established Disease Management Areas; currently there are 3 active DMAs. Within those DMAs, has established Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) units. Hunters can apply for DMAP permits to harvest additional antlerless deer during any established deer seasons, including the antlered-only season.

“There are limited options when it comes to managing CWD, and where success has occurred wildlife agencies used a combination of hunter harvest and culling to reduce deer populations,” Colley said. “Over the past couple years, the PGC conducted small-scale targeted removals around new or recent CWD detections, to lower the probability of CWD becoming established in new areas.”

Next week: What you can do to help stop the spread of CWD.

About Courtney Colley

Colley grew up on a small farm in south-central Pennsylvania. “Through working on the farm and hunting with my father, I fostered a love of wildlife and the outdoors,” she said.

Colley first achieved an Associate degree in Wildlife Technology from Penn State, and continued her education to get a Bachelor of Arts degree in Earth and Mineral Science, with double minors, Watersheds, and Natural Resource Management.

She has a Master of Science degree from Shippensburg University, with a focus of wildlife ecology. She taught as a adjunct instructor at Penn State, landing an “Adjunct Educator of the Year” award from Penn State in 2016.

In 2016 she accepted a Conservation Education Coordinator position with the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, working at the Elk County Visitor Center. She was hired by the PGC as CWD Communication Specialist in August 2018.

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