GETTYSBURG – For one group of local muzzleloader hunters, it was business as usual during the October antlerless season when they successfully took deer on a friend's farm near Gettysburg.
When the statewide, two-week firearms deer season opens Monday, Nov. 26, however, they are unsure if they will return to hunt buck. Their uncertainly is because of the discovery of chronic wasting disease in captive-born and raised deer on a farm in Adams County, that has resulted in Pennsylvania Game Commission executive director Carl Roe creating a 600-square mile disease management area in Adams and York counties.
As soon as the CWD-infected captive deer was found, the previously established CWD Interagency Task Force was initiated to address the threat of the disease to captive and wild deer and elk populations in the state. Task force members are comprised of representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Health, the PGC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey/Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and Penn State University/Cooperative Extension Offices.
"This executive order will enable the Game Commission and task force members to monitor the state's wild deer population in the area surrounding where the CWD-infected farmed deer was found," Roe said. "We are relying on hunters and others concerned about wildlife to work with us as we strive to manage this disease."
Hunters within the DMA are prohibited from moving high-risk parts outside of the DMA. These parts include the head, spinal cord/backbone, spleen, skull plate with attached antlers if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present, cape if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present, upper canine teeth if root structure or other soft tissue is present, any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue, unfinished taxidermy mounts and brain-tanned hides.
Not classified as high-risk include meat without the backbone, cleaned skull plate with attached antlers if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present, tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue present, cape if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present, upper canine teeth if no root structure or other soft tissue is present and finished taxidermy mounts. To accomplish this, the PGC has contracted with processors to be available at the check station to serve those hunters who plan to move their harvest outside of the DMA without taking high-risk parts with them.
Hunters who harvest a deer within the DMA during the two-week firearms deer season, which end Saturday, Dec. 8, will be required to bring their deer to a mandatory check station so that samples can be collected for CWD testing. For those participating in the current archery deer season within the DMA, bringing harvested deer to the check station is voluntary, but encouraged.
Hunters within the DMA are prohibited from using or possessing any cervid urine-based attractants. Such attractants cause deer to congregate in certain areas and increases the likelihood that CWD could spread if it is found in the wild, and the order also prohibits the feeding of cervids, which causes deer to congregate in certain areas and increases the likelihood that CWD could spread if it is found in the wild.
For more information about CWD from the departments of Agriculture and Health, access the website at www.agriculture.state.pa.us;  for information from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, access the website at www.pgc.state.pa.us  .