Game Commission in joint project to reduce impact of CWD
The Pennsylvania Game Commission, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services (USDA-WS), is conducting a project in Blair and Bedford counties to reduce the impact of chronic wasting disease (CWD). CWD is a threat to Pennsylvania’s deer and elk populations. Deer and elk infected with CWD have lower survival rates, and this can lead to fewer deer and elk and fewer hunting opportunities.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is implementing this reduction to minimize the impact of CWD on the deer population in this specific area. The decision to reduce deer numbers is based on experiences in other states where reducing deer numbers has reduced the effect of CWD.
During the past deer hunting seasons, the Game Commission provided hunters the first opportunity to harvest more deer by increasing antlerless licenses and Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits in northern Bedford and southern Blair counties. Currently, Game Commission staff are conducting post-hunting season deer population surveys to estimate the number of deer in the area. This estimate will be then compared to the population objective of 2,000 to 2,500 deer. Targeted removal, conducted by USDA-WS professionals, will then be used to reduce the deer numbers to this objective.
Removals will only occur on lands with landowner permission and will be completed this winter and early spring.
In addition to conducting population surveys, Game Commission staff are capturing and marking deer as part of this project. Captured deer will be marked with ear tags and radio collars, and then released. The radio collars will provide movement and survival data. Captured and collared deer will not be killed as part of the targeted removal.
Deer harvested through targeted removals will not go to waste. All deer will be tested for CWD and infected deer will be disposed of properly. The remaining venison from targeted removal operations will be donated to cooperating landowners and to local food banks.
The Game Commission does not take the decision to reduce deer populations lightly. Without effective action, CWD will continue to increase. As CWD increases, deer survival declines. Eventually, deer populations and hunting opportunities decline. Based on other states experiences, reducing deer numbers is the best management option. Without action, CWD will continue to spread in Pennsylvania and will have long-term negative impacts on deer and deer hunting. As the state agency responsible for managing Pennsylvania’s deer and elk herd, it would be irresponsible not to take the threat of CWD seriously.
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. Prions or misfold proteins can be shed onto the environment through bodily fluids and once there can remain infectious for several years. Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for CWD.
For more information on CWD, please refer to the Game Commission website at www.pgc.pa.gov.