| Sports

Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Money will be factor in dealing with deer disease in Pa.

TribLIVE Sports Videos

Email Newsletters

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.

Deer farms

There are many captive deer farms in Blair and Bedford counties, perhaps 10 percent of the more than 1,100 in Pennsylvania, some have estimated.

How they will be impacted by the discovery of chronic wasting disease in wild deer is yet to be determined, said Craig Shultz, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's bureau of animal health and diagnostic services.

The state's CWD response plan has guidelines that call for quarantining and depopulating farms within a disease management zone. It also recommends “continuous testing of all death losses and recommend double fencing for increased security” on such farms.

Just what the department might do in still unknown, though, Shultz said.

“To make any real strong conclusions about what we're going to do at this point would be premature,” he said.

Matthew Meals, deputy director of the department, said the agency has spent about $100,000 on CWD monitoring of deer farms so far, There is no evidence that those captive herds sparked the disease's jump into the wild, he added.

Monday, March 4, 2013, 11:00 p.m.

Money may ultimately determine how the Pennsylvania Game Commission responds to the discovery last week of chronic wasting disease in the state's wild deer herd.

Cal DuBrock, director of the commission's bureau of wildlife management, said during a news conference Monday in Harrisburg that, prior to last fall, the cost of disease surveillance had been running about $200,000 annually. The commission was paying about $130,000 of that; the rest was covered by federal dollars.

After a captive deer on an Adams County farm tested positive for wasting disease in October, though, the commission set up a 400-square-mile “disease management area” and stepped up monitoring efforts.

That drove the cost of looking for CWD to $400,000. The commission had to foot the entire bill. Federal money for CWD monitoring has “gone away,” DuBrock said.

Now, wasting disease has spread to the state's wild deer herd.

The agency confirmed Friday that three deer taken by hunters during the two-week firearms deer season tested positive for the disease. One was an adult buck from Frankstown Township in Blair County; another was an adult doe from Freedom Township, also in Blair. The third was a 1 12-year-old buck from South Woodbury Township in Bedford County.

The hunters who shot the deer said all appeared healthy when encountered, said Brad Myers, director of the commission's southcentral region office.

“They said there was no indication these deer had anything wrong with them,” Myers said.

The commission has also been in touch with the commercial processors who butchered the deer. Two have been identified for certain; work to figure out who the third was is ongoing, Myers said. Conservation officers are trying to find out from them where the high-risk parts from each deer – brains and lymph nodes that harbor the disease — ended up.

In the meantime, a new disease management area almost certainly will be established, DuBrock said. Hunters and deer farmers will probably be restricted in terms of their ability to move deer and high-risk deer parts in and out of the region. Rules allowing people to keep road-killed deer also may be suspended.

The commission will increase testing in the Blair and Bedford areas, and will try to examine hunter-killed deer and roadkills. But all of that work “is pretty expensive,” DuBrock added.

Whether the commission can afford to continue the intensive testing in Adams and York counties, while replicating it in Blair and Bedford, is a question that can't yet be answered, he said.

“Can we continue to spend in the area of $300,000 to $500,000 in each disease management area to do surveillance? We're really going to have to take a hard look at that,” DuBrock said.

What the commission decides may ultimately hinge on what it hopes to achieve. No state with the possible exception of New York has ever gotten rid of wasting disease once it's been found within its borders, DuBrock said. The commission must decide if its goal to is to “determine the prevalence on the landscape as opposed to stopping it.”

“At this point, there are a lot of questions and a lot of speculation, but we don't have a lot of answers,” DuBrock said.

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

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.




Show commenting policy

Most-Read Outdoors

  1. Outlook for statewide deer season better than 2014
  2. Frye: Not a record, but bear season still good
  3. Outdoors notices: Nov. 29, 2015
  4. Washington County hunter has day to remember
  5. Despite crowds, opening day of deer season offers plenty of opportunities
  6. Outdoors notebook: Trout management plan draft up for discussion
  7. Outdoors notices: Nov. 23, 2015