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SNYDER: Pa. Game Commission makes bold move to slow spread of CWD


This is what we expected.

Chronic Wasting Disease (commonly referred to as CWD) was documented within Pennsylvania's deer herd in 2012. Since then it has slowly, but steadily spread. Now, after the disease gained momentum across state lines, the rules are changing.

Earlier this week, we learned the Pennsylvania Game Commission is taking yet one more step to do whatever it can to slow the spread of a disease that threatens to do serious damage to the state's prized whitetail.

Knowing that several neighboring states are also dealing with the spread of CWD, the agency charged with protecting the state's wildlife has made it illegal to bring certain "high risk" deer parts into Pennsylvania from New York, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland.

It's a bold move that will, no doubt, effect countless hunters, especially the many York County hunters who take advantage of Maryland's generous limits and suburban deer population.

"We understand that Pennsylvania hunters, and especially those who live near the state's borders, frequently travel across state lines to hunt deer or other cervids," said the Game Commission's executive director, Matthew Hough. "This expanded ban will inconvenience them, just as successful hunters traveling out of Pennsylvania's Disease Management Areas are inconvenienced."

Remember, many local hunters have already experienced a few years' worth of these sorts of regulations. Since the commission's biologists first discovered CWD within the state, the agency has limited moving deer from certain management areas, including an area right here in York County.

Despite the inconvenience, there's no doubt this is a time for serious measures. CWD is deadly. In western states where the disease has been prevalent for many years, CWD has had nasty effects on deer and elk herds.

In some regions of the country, prevalence of the disease has reached nearly 20 percent of adult male deer. That's not good. Remember, when a deer contracts CWD, it will die. It's a deadly neurological disease.

"The consequences of spreading CWD has potential to jeopardize the future of deer hunting in Pennsylvania" Hough said. "We need your help to minimize the impacts of CWD in our state."

What can you do to help?

First, it's important to understand CWD has no effects on humans. There's no reason not to head into the woods and keep hunting. While you're there, be on the lookout for deer that look sick. Report them to the Game Commission. Certainly, do not harvest sick deer. If you do, you risk spreading the disease as you move the animal.

Second, stick to the law. If you're hunting in one of the state's Disease Management Areas, you must take your deer to an approved butcher or taxidermist. Again, you can't take high-risk parts out of the management areas.

While the trend is certainly troubling and is an unwelcome development, it's here. It's up to us, the state's hunters and protectors of wildlife, to ensure the spread of CWD is as slow as possible. If we follow the rules and remain vigilant, the disease will remain little more than a nuisance.

Know where you killed your deer and don't move it if you're not supposed to.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at