The Pennsylvania Game Commission has detailed a five-year partnership with the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine to address some of the worst wildlife diseases in the state.
The partnership, called the Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program, is a science-based, wildlife health initiative that will increase disease surveillance, management and research to better protect wildlife. The program will address the likes of Chronic Wasting Disease, White-nose syndrome and the West Nile virus.
White-nose syndrome is a condition named after the distinct fungus that grows around the muzzles and wings of hibernating bats.
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“We’re global now. New diseases are going to come and go. We’d much rather be at the front of that than having to deal with the consequences after the fact,” Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said. “This program will help tremendously because of the laser focus that is put just on those diseases.”
The Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program is aiming to streamline the Chronic Wasting Disease testing process for hunters. The turnaround time for a test result will be 7 to 10 days, rather than weeks or sometimes months. Hunters will also be able to track test results online.
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“A benefit of this is that we don’t tell the University of Pennsylvania what to say. They’re researchers and they develop their own message,” Burhans said. “Some hunters don’t always want to believe the Game Commission because we don’t always have great news to share. We’re using a credible source and that's important because there is so much misinformation out there about CWD."
The program will dedicate 12 employees, one of them working full-time out of the Game Commission’s Harrisburg office to address wildlife diseases. This will provide more thorough disease documentation while allowing agency biologists to divert their attention from disease issues back to managing wildlife populations.