The Pennsylvania Game Commission is seeking public comment on a proposal to more actively involve deer hunters in the fight against chronic wasting disease, or CWD.
The commission released a draft report and is accepting comments through Feb. 29, 2020 — in time for implementation in the 2020-21 hunting seasons.
“Hunters are essential to CWD management,” said commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “Without the effort they put in hunting and harvesting deer, and submitting samples from the deer they harvest in CWD areas, our collective fight to slow CWD’s spread and limit the disease where it exists in Pennsylvania would be all the more an uphill battle.”
Burhans said controlling chronic wasting disease is “not a lost cause” but will require diligence on the part of hunters and landowners alike.
Proposals include expanding deer seasons in CWD areas, removing deer antler-point restrictions and increasing allocations of antlerless deer permits. In areas where a new, isolated CWD-positive deer is detected, allowing hunters to take additional antlered deer also is being considered.
If disease-management objectives are not reached through hunting, the post-season, small-scale targeted removal of deer could be conducted in parts of CWD areas where determined necessary, the game commission said.
History of CWD in state: Chronic wasting disease was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2012. Through 2018, 250 free-ranging CWD-positive deer have been detected within the state — 246 of them within Disease Management Area 2 in south central Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has three active DMAs totaling more than 8,000 square miles. Within DMAs, specific regulations apply regarding the hunting and feeding of deer:
It’s unlawful to intentionally feed deer within a DMA.
Hunters in DMAs may not use or possess urine-based deer attractants.
Deer harvested within a DMA may not be transported out of the DMA unless the carcass parts with the highest risk of transmitting the disease are removed first.
Not a danger to people: While CWD is always fatal to deer and elk, it is not known to infect people. Still, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends never consuming meat from CWD-positive animals. It can take up to 24 months for symptoms to show in an infected animal.
Comments on the draft plan can be submitted through the CWD Response Plan page at www.pgc.pa.gov or mailed to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, ATTN: CWD Plan Comments, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, Pa. 17110-9797.
In addition to enlisting the help of hunters, the game commission is weighing a proposal to ban the feeding of deer and wild turkey and is soliciting public comment.
The proposed ban would not apply to bird feeding, food plots — small pieces of property planted with crops specifically for deer consumption — or regular agricultural activity.