Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Developing Story: CWD Found In Wild Deer In PA

With SNP poised on the brink of launching a CWD  reaction program almost certain to be worse than the actual disease, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced on March 1st that three hunter killed deer taken during the past season tested positive for CWD.  Please read the press release below for details.  I have found no further details as of yet about the CWD News Conference held Monday.

March 1, 2013
Release #019-13: Source: The Pennsylvania Game Commission
HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission today confirmed three hunter-killed deer taken in the 2012 general firearms deer season have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Two were from Blair County; the other was from Bedford County.

“These are the first positive cases of CWD in free-ranging deer in Pennsylvania,” confirmed Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. “The disease was first documented in early October, 2012, by the state Department of Agriculture in a captive deer on an Adams County deer farm.”
The three hunter-killed deer tissue samples were collected by Game Commission personnel during annual deer aging field checks during the general firearms season for deer. The samples were tested and identified as suspect positive by the Department of Agriculture as part of an ongoing annual statewide CWD surveillance program. The tissue samples were confirmed to be positive for CWD by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa, as part of an established verification process.   
“The three CWD-positives were part of 2,945 deer sampled for the disease statewide,” explained Roe. “To date, we have received test results from 1,500 samples, including these three positive samples.  Results from the remaining samples should be available in the next few weeks.”

An additional 2,089 deer were sampled and tested from within the designated Disease Management Area in Adams and York counties; CWD was not detected in any of those deer samples. Since 1998, the Game Commission has gathered and submitted more than 43,000 samples from wild deer and elk for CWD testing. The three CWD-positives announced today are the first to be confirmed in 15 years of testing.

 “Pennsylvania has an active Interagency CWD Task Force and a dynamic CWD surveillance program,” Roe noted, “and we will continue to be vigilant and initiate steps included in the Commonwealth’s CWD Response Plan. We will continue to work diligently with the Department of Agriculture and other members of the task force to better manage the threat of this disease to the state’s captive and wild deer populations.”
The Game Commission is working to identify and engage the hunters who harvested these CWD-positive deer to confirm where the whitetails were killed. A meeting of the Interagency CWD Task Force is being convened this afternoon to discuss the new CWD-positive deer and possible additional actions to determine the prevalence and distribution of the disease within Pennsylvania, as well as to contain its spread. 

The latest information and updates to existing CWD information can be accessed on the Game Commission’s website ( Public meetings will be held in the Blair-Bedford County area in coming weeks to share what we know about these CWD-positive deer and CWD in Pennsylvania, and to answer questions the public might have about this disease. How these latest developments may influence hunting regulations and other deer policies are at this time still contingent upon the results of ongoing testing of samples from hunter-killed deer, additional surveillance and fieldwork, and Game Commission and task force deliberations.
 CWD is a degenerative brain disease that affects elk, mule deer and white-tailed deer. It is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact through saliva, feces and urine. CWD is fatal in deer and elk, but there is no evidence that CWD can be transmitted to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The World Health Organization.
Signs of the disease include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior such as stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk also may allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. There is no known treatment or vaccine.
CWD was first discovered in Colorado captive mule deer in 1967, and has since been detected in 22 states and Canadian provinces, including Pennsylvania’s neighboring states of New York, West Virginia and Maryland.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe and other Commonwealth officials will hold a press conference to discuss Chronic Wasting Disease 2 p.m., Monday, March 4, in the auditorium of the Game Commission’s Harrisburg Headquarters, 2001 Elmerton Avenue. To keep Pennsylvania hunters and other residents informed on this breaking story, the press conference also will be webcast through the agency’s website ( beginning at 2 p.m. Background on CWD and its limited history in Pennsylvania can be found on the Game Commission’s CWD Info Page.

For more information on CWD from the departments of Agriculture and Health, visit:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Shenandoah Whitetails Under Assault: Public Meetings Announced

SNP Bucks Before CWD Study Began
It appears that the destruction of the world class Whitetail Deer viewing and  photography at SNP caused by the collaring of the mature bucks is just the tip of the ice berg, or at least this will be the case if CWD is found in the park or close enough to the park to trigger whatever reaction plan is finally adopted.  The National Park Service has now released two possible Chronic Wasting Disease response plans or perhaps it is more accurate to say that there is two versions of the same general plan, with one being more reactive in nature, and the other more proactive. The two options are know as the "Phased Approach" and the "Preemptive approach. It more or less boils down to a question of whether the Park Service starts shooting deer before the disease arrives in the park, or after it is discovered there.

Some of the ideas proposed, but already rejected, are also scary indeed to those of us who enjoy watching deer and other wildlife in a natural environment at SNP.  These include fencing the entire park and driving the park deer on to surrounding private lands, fencing deer out of  Big Meadows and other high deer density areas, destroying the vegetation in Big Meadows that attracts deer, introduction of more predators, and general eradication of the deer herd. Non-lethal methods were rejected because they would not reduce the deer herd quickly enough to reduce the likelihood of CWD establishment, or slow the spreading of the disease once it was found in the park.

The details are discussed in depth in:  Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement, Shenandoah National Park Public Scoping-Newsletter. , which may be found by clicking the link, scrolling to the bottom of the page and downloading the pdf document.

This is quite simply a no win situation for the deer, and those that are interested in them. The only choice between the proposals is which is the lesser of two evils. Deer watching and photography has already been severely impacted as a side effect of the CWD study. That is an accomplished fact-- no discussion or complaining will change it--although it is good to let officials know ones' thoughts on the situation.  In time the collars will fall off if the collaring program is not continued and eventually the situation will return to normal, but that will not likely be the case and it most certainly will not be the case if the preemptive plan is selected, as the shooting of deer would then start at any time officials decided.

The next step in the process is a series of Public Scoping/Draft Alternatives Meetings. These meetings are to provide opportunities for the public to express their concerns about the situation and provide feedback on the preliminary alternatives that have been developed.. According to the newsletter, "each meeting will be in an open house format with a presentation."  "NPS staff will be on hand to visit with you, answer questions, and solicit your input. Attendees may also submit comments in writing on forms available at the meeting, on-line, or by mail as described in this newsletter."

Below is a list of the Public Meetings.

March 12 – Charlottesville, VA, 7-9 pm
The Educational Building at Ivy Creek Natural Area
1780 Earlysville Road

March 13 – Harrisonburg, VA, 7-9 pm
James Madison University
Integrated Science and Technology Building
nTelos Room #259

March 14 – Washington, VA, 7-9 pm
Washington Fire Hall
10 Firehouse Lane

The preferred method of comment is
to submit comments electronically
through the NPS PEPC website

You may also mail
comments to Superintendent, Shenandoah Na
tional Park, 3655 U.S. Highway 211 East,
Luray, VA, 22835.

For more reading on the subject, visit the following links:

Also see the post on Flickr "Public Input Requested" by Larry W. Brown, which also has the meeting and contact information, along with featuring a superb photograph of one of the most impressive SNP bucks that unfortunately has been missing since the CWD study began late last summer.

A special thanks to Larry W. Brown and Jim Fields for directing our attention to this information and for their efforts on behalf of the Whitetails of SNP.

Originally published at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill.