The state Game Commission needs hunters' help to prevent Pennsylvania's deer population from becoming decimated by chronic wasting disease.
An infected captive deer discovered Oct. 11 at an Adams County farm prompted the commission to issue hunting restrictions within a 600-square-mile area of York and Adams counties.
That means hunters who harvest a deer within the area during the two-week hunting season starting Nov. 26 are required to bring their deer to a mandatory check station -- located in the commission's maintenance building on State Game Land 249 at 1070 Lake Meade Road in East Berlin -- for samples to be collected for testing.
Hunters within the disease-management area also can't move "high-risk" deer, moose or elk parts -- including the head, spinal cord and backbone -- outside the boundaries.
And hunters can't use urine-based attractants within the area, because it would cause deer to gather in certain areas, increasing the possibility for disease to spread.
The new rules might be irritating and inconvenient for hunters, but it's in their best interest to follow them to the letter.
Rick Althouse, who lives in East Manchester Township but hunts in the management area near Hellam Township, said he's not excited about the restrictions, but he knows what's at stake.
"Somebody has to control (chronic wasting) and make sure it doesn't spread," he said. "It could get worse, and it could ruin hunting for a long time."
The infected deer in Adams County marked the first appearance of chronic wasting disease in Pennsylvania.
The disease attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, producing lesions that eventually result in death. Signs of the disease include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, abnormal behaviors, stumbling and trembling.
There is no evidence the disease can be transmitted to humans. But once it spreads among wild deer, it can substantially reduce the population and change the way the population is managed, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance.
That means those most likely to be affected by the disease are hunters or those industries in Pennsylvania that support hunters.
There are fines associated for violating the new restrictions, but does an outdoorsman really need a threat to protect their sport?
Hopefully, all hunters in the disease-management area will do their parts to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, even if it means a drive of an hour or more to the testing center.
It would be helpful, however, if there were more testing centers in what's already a very large containment area.
The Game Commission should make it as convenient as possible for hunters to comply with the rules.
All it takes is one mistake or one unethical hunter to let this genie out of the bottle.