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Game Commission sampling as many deer as possible within 11 townships in Bedford and Blair counties.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission will be increasing efforts to sample white-tailed deer for chronic wasting disease (CWD) during the upcoming general firearms deer season.

In addition to continuing with established CWD monitoring statewide, biologists will focus on collecting as many brain and lymph node samples as possible from adult deer harvested in 11 townships in Bedford and Blair counties.

Townships being targeted are: Bedford, Bloomfield, East St. Clair, Kimmel, King and South Woodbury in Bedford County, and Blair, Frankstown, Freedom, Greenfield, and Taylor in Blair County.

These townships are within the larger area designated as Disease Management Area 2 (DMA 2), and are at the center of the area within which some wild deer are currently infected with CWD. Three road-killed deer have tested positive for CWD in this area during the past few months.

This fall's enhanced sampling effort is aimed at determining the CWD prevalence rate within deer in this region. This information will be used to plan next steps toward controlling the spread of the disease.

"To believe that we can't control or eradicate this disease, is to ensure that we won't,” said Wayne Laroche, director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management. “We need to do everything we can to put out the fire before it spreads out of control across the state."

Hunters who harvest deer in Blair and Bedford counties are encouraged to help in the sampling effort by bringing their deer heads to one of two drop-off locations. These locations are at the Game Commission Food and Cover buildings located at 128 Seldom Seen Road, Martinsburg, Blair County, and 372 Replogle School Road, New Enterprise, Bedford County. Hunters must make sure deer harvest tags remain attached to the heads so that the township of harvest can be determined.

If the head dropped off is tested and is found to be CWD positive, the hunter will be notified.

The state Department of Agriculture confirmed Pennsylvania’s first positive case of CWD on a "fully certified" deer farm in Adams County during October 2012. Three hunter-harvested deer – two from Blair and one from Bedford County –taken two months later during the general firearms season tested positive for CWD. Two years later, another CWD positive deer was found on another "fully certified" deer farm in Jefferson County. To date, 16 wild deer from DMA 2 have tested positive. The source of the wild deer infection has not been identified.

Chronic wasting disease is a prion disease that needs to be taken very seriously, Laroche said. Like Alzheimer's disease in humans, it 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 that also can contaminate the environment. It is always fatal to deer and elk.

Left unchecked, this disease has the potential to jeopardize Pennsylvania's wild deer and elk populations and the future of deer hunting.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that there is no strong evidence the CWD infects humans. The Pennsylvania Game Commission advises the public to report and not eat sick-looking deer. If you see a deer or elk that you believe is sick, do not disturb or attempt to kill or remove the animal. Accurately document the location of the animal and immediately contact the nearest Game Commission region office.

Public support is essential in controlling CWD in Pennsylvania.

For more information on CWD in Pennsylvania, visit our website
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