Chronic Wasting Disease now poses more serious threat to Pennsylvania's elk herd

Pennsylvania's elk herd now faces a more serious threat from Chronic Wasting Disease.
  • A buck with CWD was recently found in Clearfield County.
  • The discovery of the diseased deer will force the expansion DMA 3.
  • That means at least some of the state Elk Hunt Zones will lie within DMA 3.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has now become a more serious threat to Pennsylvania's elk herd.

A captive deer that tested positive for CWD will force the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand Disease Management Area 3 (DMA 3) into the state's elk range.

The exact adjusted boundary of DMA 3, and all other DMAs that could expand due to newly detected CWD-positive deer, will be announced in coming weeks, after all samples collected from 2018 hunter-harvested deer are tested. About 3,000 of 6,309 samples from hunter-harvested deer remain to be tested.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture last week announced a buck on a hunting preserve near Curwensville in Clearfield County tested positive for CWD.

The CWD-positive buck had been brought to the Clearfield County hunting preserve from a Fulton County captive-deer facility, where it was born and raised. The state Department of Agriculture placed the Clearfield County hunting preserve and the Fulton County captive-deer facility under quarantine and they are to remain under quarantine for five years.

While the new DMA 3 boundary will be announced after all sampling of hunter-harvested deer is final, the CWD-positive captive deer would expand DMA 3 to the northeast, where it would encompass at least some Elk Hunt Zones, said Game Commission Wildlife Management Director Matthew Schnupp.

Within DMAs, specific regulations apply to help prevent the spread of CWD. The intentional feeding of deer is prohibited within DMAs, as is the field possession by hunters of urine-based deer attractants. Hunters harvesting deer and elk within DMAs are prohibited from exporting the entire carcasses or high-risk parts from those animals outside the DMA.

CWD history: CWD was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2012, in a captive cervid facility in Adams County. Shortly after, three wild positive deer were detected in Bedford and Blair counties. In response to these positives, DMAs 1 and 2 were established. DMA 1 was dissolved in 2017, after no CWD positives were detected for five consecutive years. DMA 2 has since expanded covering parts of Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Perry, and Somerset counties.

DMA 3 was established in 2014, after CWD was detected in a captive cervid facility in Jefferson County. In 2017, DMA 3 expanded when three wild CWD positives were detected in Jefferson and Clearfield counties.

DMA 4 was established in 2018, after a CWD was detected in a captive cervid facility in Lancaster County. DMA 4 covers parts Berks, Lancaster, and Lebanon county. To date, CWD has not been detected in the wild population in DMA 4.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects deer and elk. CWD can be transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact or indirectly through contaminated environments. Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for CWD.

Information for this story was provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.