Samples were collected for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing from a male and female Formosan sika deer removed from the wild by a Pennsylvania Game Commission officer late yesterday morning along Interstate 81 outside of Harrisburg. It is believed that a third male sika still may be in the area.

Once the deer were put down, the carcasses were brought to the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, where Dr. Walter Cottrell, agency wildlife veterinarian, collected tissue and brain samples to have tested for CWD by the state Department of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services Laboratory.

On Feb. 22, the non-native deer escaped from the fenced enclosure of a Harrisburg area residence, where the deer had been kept. These three deer are the progeny of sika deer originally acquired nearly 40 years ago. It was noted that, over the years, native white-tailed deer jumped the fence and mingle with the sika deer.

“Because of this co-mingling of the sika deer and native white-tailed deer, we believe that it is only responsible to test these animals for CWD, even though both carcasses appeared healthy,” said Dr. Cottrell.

Generally speaking, the Game Commission offers owners of escaped exotic animals an opportunity to re-capture the animals. However, if the owner does not want to or refuses to attempt to re-capture the animals, the Game Commission will take action to protect the state’s native wildlife

The decision to shoot the deer was made due to public safety concerns. Found along I-81, between the Progress Avenue exit and Routes 22/322 exchange, the Game Commission officer noted that using a tranquilizer gun was not practical, as he was unable to get close enough to the animals from the embankment, and he was concerned that, if darted, the animals may have run out into traffic on I-81.

Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen’s clubs.

The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales revenues; the state’s share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.