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Another deer with ties to CWD farm running loose

| Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, 10:20 p.m.

First there was Pink 23. Now there's Purple 4.

Pink 23 is the name of a deer that escaped from the New Oxford, Adams County, farm where chronic wasting disease has been found in two whitetails. Officials had wanted to euthanize and test it, too. But it remains on the loose, and no one knows whether it's healthy or sick and spreading the disease.

Now there's potential that another deer might be doing the same.

Purple 4 is a deer — also tied to the New Oxford farm — that escaped from a facility in Alexandria, Huntingdon County. The owner of that farm recently posted a reward on message boards offering $200 to anyone who would shoot the deer and return the carcass, “no questions asked.”

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture deputy secretary Matthew Meals initially said, when asked little more than a week ago, that his agency had not been notified of the escape. He confirmed it this past week, though, at a public meeting. It, too, apparently remains free.

Meals did not return a phone call seeking comment this past week.

One thing is clear: The department of agriculture has no plans to buy the New Oxford facility where CWD was first discovered, department of agriculture spokeswoman Samantha Krepps said.

That's what Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources did with the first deer farm where CWD showed up in that state, department spokeswoman Laurel Steffes said. That's because the prions believed to carry CWD can survive for long periods of time in the soil. Wisconsin officials did not want the farm's fences coming down and wild deer roaming over the property and getting sick, Steffes said.

What to do with the farm now, 10 years after the disease was first found, is a question officials are trying to answer, she added.

“But at this point, our focus is still on the fences and keeping them in good shape,” Steffes said.

Complicating things is that the farm is not the only one where wasting disease has since been found.

Wisconsin has 532 cervid farms within its borders raising deer and elk, said Rachel Klein, spokeswoman for that state's department of agriculture. She could not say how many have had CWD-positive animals. But the number of farm deer with the disease has grown from one in 2002 to 99 as of this year, she said.

Steffes said the state simply doesn't have the money to buy every farm and protect wild deer.

Pennsylvania has more than 1,100 deer farms, Krepps said. As many as 150 are being investigated for possible ties to the Adams County farm with CWD.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

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