Harrisburg, Pa. — It’s something that’s been around for decades in the deer population, but since 2012, The Pennsylvania Game Commission has seen an uptick in the number of deer contracting chronic wasting disease or CWD.
“There’s no practical way to vaccinate deer against CWD,” PA Game Commission Spokesperson Travis Lau said.
This past hunting season, a deer at a breeding farm in West Cocalico Township, Lancaster County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.
It was the only one in a herd of 38 to contract the disease, which is like mad cow disease.
“It’s an accumulation of abnormal protein in the brain that will almost make like a swish cheese appearance,” Dr. Kevin Brightbill with the PA Department of Agriculture said.
Now that a new area has been identified, that’s where the PA Game Commission comes in and sets up a disease management area.
Currently, there are two in the state. DMA 2 is southwest of Harrisburg. DMA 3 is in Clearfield and Jefferson counties.
DMA 4 will now be set up in Lancaster County and that means new restrictions for hunters.
“Whenever you have animals congregating in what otherwise would be a natural numbers, meaning there something drawing them to a particular site, there is an increase likelihood for disease transmission, so we prohibit the use of urine based deer attractants for that reason. It’s the same reason why the recreational feeding of deer is prohibited within DMA’s,” Lau said.
Hunters in DMA’s are also asked to not bring high risk parts, such as the head, spinal cord and spleen, out of that DMA when hunting.
Instead, they must dispense of them.
In past years, the concern for humans contracting CWD has been in question, after certain monkeys did contract it, but Dr. Brightbill says it is very unlikely.
“Plain and simple, the prion that is in all of our bodies that makes up the cell membrane is very different from the prion in macaque monkey and different then the prion that’s a deer so there is a strong species barrier,” Dr. Brightbill said.
The other deer that was found with CWD was in Bedford County.
The PA Game Commission says they are planning to hold information sessions for hunters in the new DMA in Lancaster County.