Pennsylvania Game Commission Considering Options in Controlling CWD

By Bob Frye
 
HARRISBURG - It could be called the Donald Trump approach to containing wildlife disease. The Pennsylvania Game Commission is trying to figure out ways to stop the spread of chronic wasting disease.

It's an always-fatal ailment that kills deer, elk and other cervids. One idea discussed briefly Monday during a work group meeting was building a deer-proof fence around half or more of the 2,800-square-mile disease
management area 2.

It takes in all or parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Huntingdon, Fulton and Somerset counties.

The hope is that putting a fence along highways would slow, if not stop, sick deer from moving elsewhere.

Wayne Laroche, director of the commission's bureau of wildlife management, admitted the proposal is one "people might think is hairbrained."
Executive director Matt Hough said a fence probably would be too expensive to undertake. But something needs to be done, and soon, he said.
States that have allowed the disease to go untreated have seen it spread, he said.

"There's an urgent need because it gets worse on every year. We will have no better chance than we have right now," Laroche said.

There are steps the commission likely will take in the coming months.
Laroche said the commission will, perhaps by week's end, ban the importation of high-risk deer parts from Arkansas, another state where wasting disease was recently discovered, or ban their importation from across the continent.
It's also probably going to use U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to kill deer within the disease management area starting in January, he said.
The thought, Laroche said, is that deer are spreading wasting disease by animal-to-animal contact.

Bringing such groups to bait around spots where CWD-positive deer are discovered and then removing them all at once might prevent further problems, he said.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been doing just that. Today, prevalence rates remain around 1 percent, Laroche said.
Here, it's been found in about 1.7 percent of animals tested. The goal is to keep the prevalence there, Laroche said.

"At this time, it's as low as it's going to be," he said.