The impact of a recent positive test for chronic debilitating disease (CWD) in a free-ranging white-tailed deer in northern Juniata County changes regulations in Snyder County, while the Pennsylvania Game Commission attempts to slow the spread of the disease.
"A landowner in Greenwood Township, Juniata County, has reported a deer strangely acting on his property. it was lethargic and extended against his building, "said Bert Einodshofer, a spokesman for the south-central region commission. "A guard was sent, the animal was euthanized and tested, and found positive for chronic emaciation. It was disturbing as it was so far from other positive tests in the state, and the deer was in clinical stages and probably sick on the ground for a while. "
In response to this – and another positive test from Perry County found in a stag roadkill -, the Gaming Commission expanded its deer management area to the south of Snyder County, including everything under Highway 522. The designation is based on the geography of the positive test.
"We typically target a five-mile radius of the sample based on the deer dispersal, in which young deer can travel more than five miles as they age," said Einodshofer. "We use the main roads and other borders to help people get a better idea of the beginning of the restrictions."
Among these changes, he said, no one is allowed to feed deer within a DMA.
"I know some people like to take out a block of salt and see the deer dragging close enough to see it, but it's no longer allowed in this area," he said. "The goal is to minimize the potential spread of CWD, and we do not want deer to congregate more than necessary."
For those hunting in the DMA area, deer parts associated with CWD can not be transported to non-DMA areas. These parts include the head and spine, Einodshofer said.
"There are many butchers and processors at home in the central part of the state who can take deer leftovers and drop them somewhere on their land, but this is no longer allowed," did he declare. "We recommend doubling the head and spine and dumping them. In addition, the use of natural deer urine as attractive during hunting is prohibited in a DMA. "
Chronic debilitating disease is a prion disorder that affects the brain of an infected deer species, which may include elk, causing slow degradation and possibly death. There is no cure and testing can not be done on a live animal.
"Early symptoms include the loss of the deer's wild state. They lose their mental faculties, which is why we find that more of them are being hit along the way, "Einodshofer said. "As the disease progresses, the ears begin to sag, the deer begins to salivate further and the body and neurological system deteriorate as it becomes weaker and thinner."
Einodshofer added that there is no scientific link between chronic deer stunting and any human contraction of the disorder, but the Game Commission always urges people not to eat the meat of animals that test positive.
"You must take extra precautions until the animal is tested. If you hunt in a group with other people, I would wait to grind the meat and combine it with other people in the group until you know that all the deer caught do not are more affected by chronic wasting, "said Einodshofer, adding that the Gambling Commission was seeking additional antlerless deer licenses in the DMA area to help slow the spread of the potential disease.
The situation is worrisome for hunters in the area who are learning the restrictions and are wondering if they will continue to hunt deer that may have any connection with the CWD.
"Unfortunately, I am not sure that the commission's plans are working as expected: there is no real state-owned public land in this region. It's mostly private land, "said Dale Maneval, who hunts the family farm outside Mount Pleasant Mills. "I do not really know the disease itself, but after what I've heard, there is no real way to control it."
Maneval intends to do research on the subject and look at how the game commission handles the situation of the hunting season before changing his hunting strategies.
"I'm probably going to hunt like I usually do, but it's probably going to change my work with meat," he said. "They say they do not want you to eat meat, that goes against what I've taught, namely that you do not not just kill an animal without planning to use meat. "
While the Gambling Commission only recommends not eating animal meat that is positive for chronic dieback, Maneval admits she is wary of the body's ability to effectively test all captured deer.
"Suppose 5,000 deer are killed on the opening day this year in Snyder and Juniata counties – no test can handle all this," he said. "In the end, I will probably still eat stag meat that I kill locally, but I will probably change the way I raise a stag for safety."
Troy Bowersox, who hunts family land in the north of the county, is definitely concerned about the disease near her home.
"I do not look forward to this issue in our region," he said. "I need to do more research, but if it's bad, I'll probably stop hunting here."