Potential ripple effects of Chronic Wasting Disease in our wild deer herd


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The inevitable has been confirmed. Chronic Wasting Disease has been found in wild deer here in Pennsylvania.The game commission has done a good job of outlining the specifics of what was discovered. Three wild deer from Blair and Bedford counties that were harvested by hunters were found to have the ailment.

A total of 2,945 deer were tested state-wide this past fall.

Somewhat similar to mad cow disease, CWD is a fatal disease in deer and other cervids (elk, moose, etc.) that affects the brain. It is transmitted by saliva, urine, blood and spinal fluids. Deer in the later stages of CWD exhibit erratic behavior, including excessive thirst, drooling, emaciated bodies and an irrational calmness around humans.

Several deer were confirmed with the illness in captive farm-raised deer in October and the state was quick to quarantine farms that may have been affected either directly or indirectly.

The goal was to protect the wild deer population from being contaminated with CWD, but it was just a matter of time. CWD-infected deer have been found in the wild in neighboring states and there were just too many angles to avoid a potential leak somewhere into the free-ranging herds.

What is still murky is what happens next.

The PGC will likely institute a special protected area near the Blair-Bedford region where confirmed cases were harvested. And there likely will be more efforts to educate the public and calm fears of what CWD means to people.

At the moment, there is no proof that CWD affects people in any way … but that also doesn’t mean we should be careless when hunting and processing deer.

Beyond these steps, however, another uncertain ripple effect is how the CWD situation affects hunting this year and moving forward. There already has been a steady decline in license sales and fear of CWD – regardless of how irrational it may or may not be – will likely drive away more hunters.

It is a shame because hunting yields some of the healthiest, most organic meat anyone could hope for, and the act of hunting definitely is a good way to burn calories and stay healthy.

Also, depending on how license sales are affected, how many other areas will be altered? Will license prices go up to account for a potential drop in numbers? Will certain programs be discontinued?

Only time will tell. In the meantime, it is our responsibility as hunters to educate ourselves on the topic and then help educate those around us. The future of hunting depends on each of us and how we bring up the next generation of outdoorsmen and women.

How about you? How does the recent discovery of CWD in our wild deer population affect your opinion of hunting moving forward?

~ by zaktansky on March 7, 2013.

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