Ongoing surveillance detects disease in highway-killed deer from Bedford County.
A white-tailed deer that was killed by a vehicle in Bedford County this fall has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The deer, a 1 ½–year-old buck, was struck on Interstate 99 in November and sent for testing as part of Pennsylvania’s ongoing effort to monitor the prevalence and spread of CWD, which is fatal to members of the deer family, but is not known to be transmitted to humans.
Test results confirming the buck was CWD positive were returned Dec. 24.
“It’s not as if we hope to find CWD positives as we continue our ongoing surveillance,” Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said. “But the fact is that each test result that comes back – positive or negative – gives us a clearer picture of how prevalent the disease is, and monitoring for CWD is an important part of our efforts to manage its spread.”
This positive test is unlikely to have much impact on hunters, but it serves as a reminder that CWD has been found in southcentral Pennsylvania. The Game Commission already has established perimeters around the sites where CWD was detected previously, and within the boundaries of these Disease Management Areas (DMAs), special rules apply to hunters and residents.
There are two DMAs in Pennsylvania, which are intended in part to contain and slow the spread of CWD. The buck that tested positive Dec. 24 was killed within what is known as DMA 2, a 900-square-mile area that includes parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Huntingdon counties. More precisely, the site where the buck was killed is between two sites where CWD was detected last year, so this new positive shouldn’t change the shape or size of the DMA.
This is the first case of CWD detected in Pennsylvania this year, but not all of the samples collected this year have been tested. The Game Commission targeted collecting and testing 1,000 samples within in each DMA, as well as 3,000 samples from additional deer statewide.
CWD was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2012 at a captive facility in Adams County. Subsequently, three free-ranging deer harvested by hunters during the 2012 season – two deer in Blair County and one in Bedford County – tested positive for CWD.
CWD is not a new disease, and other states have decades of experience dealing with CWD in the wild.
CWD is spread from deer to deer through direct and indirect contact. The disease attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, and will eventually result in the death of the infected animal. There is no live test for CWD and no known cure. There also is no evidence CWD can be transmitted to humans, however, it is recommended the meat of infected animals not be consumed.
For more information on CWD, the rules applying within DMAs or what hunters can do to have harvested deer tested for CWD, visit the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Information can be found by clicking on the button titled “CWD Information” near the top of the homepage.
Further results from this year’s CWD testing will be reported at a later date.
Late-season deer hunting is now underway statewide and, in some parts of the state, deer hunting is open through the last Saturday in January. For properly licensed hunters, Roe said, that means there’s still time to get out and enjoy deer hunting this year. “That’s a point that shouldn’t be lost,” Roe said. “While we will continue to monitor for CWD and keep a watchful eye on test results, the simple fact CWD has been detected in Pennsylvania shouldn’t keep anybody from enjoying deer hunting, or venison from healthy deer, as they always have.
“And with the better part of two hunting seasons elapsed since CWD was first detected in Pennsylvania, it seems clear the Keystone State’s hunters understand that,” he said.