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Deer wasting disease not found in Adams County management area

| Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 6:16 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Chronic wasting disease does not seem to have spread to Pennsylvania's wild deer herd, said the Game Commission's veterinarian, Walt Cottrell.

But the herd isn't in the clear yet.

Tests done on 2,051 deer killed by hunters, shot by farmers for crop damage or hit by vehicles inside the 400-square-mile disease management zone established around an Adams County deer farm where CWD was discovered in October revealed no evidence of the disease, Cottrell said.

That's not to say all of those deer were completely healthy. CWD is slow-developing, Cottrell said, so animals in which the disease was “not detected” could still have been sick.

But the news is about as good as could be hoped for, he said.

“It's a good outcome for us,” Cottrell said. “This gives us every reason to believe that this index case was confined behind that fence.”

Challenges remain, though.

Chronic wasting disease has been found in wild deer herds in West Virginia and — even closer — within 10 miles of the border with Maryland. It's possible, if not likely, the disease will walk into Pennsylvania from there, Cottrell added.

“It seems to be headed in our direction. The terrain in that area seems to favor that,” he said.

Commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County asked if the disease might also make its way here through the use of deer urine by hunters. Cottrell said yes.

Such lures are collected exclusively at deer farms that have spread the disease, Cottrell said. Deer congregate, which makes it easier for the disease to pass from animal to animal, all while potentially contaminating soils, he added.

There's no way to quantify the risk, he said, but added that the fact urine is a possible conduit for spreading the disease is “not a matter which is in doubt.”

“I don't feel compelled to quantify that probability. I feel compelled to mitigate that possibility,” he said in explaining why he favors banning their use.

Not every member of the commission board appears ready to take that step, however.

Commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County said there's no proof that urine products have spread wasting disease. To ban them would have economic consequences, he added.

“Before we jump to conclusions, I'd like to see some more information on that,” Hoover said.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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