In the continuing effort to prevent chronic wasting disease from getting into the Pennsylvania deer herd, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has enacted new criteria to regulate the importation of elk and deer into the state. The new regulations alter the commission’s total ban on importation put into place Aug. 1.

After the changes are published in The Pennsylvania Bulletin, elk or deer may once again be imported into Pennsylvania.

However, any animal coming from a state or province where CWD has been detected must come from a herd enrolled in a CWD monitoring program at least five years.

If CWD was not detected in the previous herd, the monitoring program only had to be in effect for at least three years.

Also, an application to import any deer or elk must be submitted to the commission at least 10 days before shipment, and the applicant must receive the import permit before animals are brought into the state.

Any shipment of live deer or elk must be accompanied by the certificate of veterinary inspection.

In another part of its anti-CWD effort, the commission is awaiting CWD-test results on samples from more than 500 deer and all 61 elk taken by hunters in Pennsylvania during the recently concluded hunting seasons.

“Those results are expected later this month or early next month,” commission executive director Vern Ross said, “but we also need the public to contact our offices if they see deer, elk or other cervids exhibiting symptoms of CWD or other diseases.

“We are fortunate to be able to assure the public that we currently have no confirmed or suspected cases of CWD in Pennsylvania’s wild or captive cervid herds, and we want to see it stay that way.”

As the agency responsible to protect, manage and conserve the wildlife resources of this state, the game commission is committed to taking all steps necessary to prevent the spread of CWD into Pennsylvania.

CWD has been detected in wild and captive herds of white-tailed deer, elk and mule deer in several western states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and two Canadian provinces.

First identified in 1967, CWD affects all species of deer, elk and moose with a progressive and always fatal disease of the nervous system.

Scientists theorize CWD is caused by an unknown agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form.

There is no reliable way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine.

Signs of a diseased animal include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, which lead to death.

There is no evidence so far of CWD having any affect on humans or other non-cervid livestock under normal conditions.

Ross stressed that if CWD reaches Pennsylvania, it would have devastating impacts, not only on the state’s long and proud tradition of hunting, but on the state’s economy as well.

According to a 1998 study by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, hunting annually pumps $4.8 billion into the state’s economy and more than 45,000 jobs in Pennsylvania are associated with hunting.