CWD deer

A whitetailed deer dying from Chronic Wasting Disease.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission released a proposal to combat the number of deer affected by chronic wasting disease in the state.

As part of this plan, the Game Commission is considering:

- Expanding hunting seasons

- Removing antler-point restrictions within disease management areas

- Adding more antlerless harvest tags

- Introducing cash incentive programs for hunters

- Targeted removal by the Game Commission as a final option

This proposal is still in draft form, and the Game Commission wants input from hunters. The commission will accept public comment on its CWD management plan through Feb. 29, 2020.

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“We’ll have a sense at that point what the public’s concerns are about the specifics within the plan, if there are any management options that public seems completely unwilling to accept,” Game Commission spokesperson Travis Lau said. “The plan is only going to work if the public is going to support it.”

These measures are being considered due to the presence of chronic wasting disease in deer populations in the commonwealth. Pennsylvania is one of several states where the disease, which is often compared to Mad Cow Disease, has been discovered.

Chronic wasting disease is a degenerative neurological disease spread in deer populations. An infected deer will develop holes in its brain and symptoms like a loss of bodily function, strange behavior like a lack of fear of humans and eventually death. There is no live test available for CWD.

There were 250 free-ranging deer that tested positive with CWD in 2018 in Pennsylvania. Almost all of these cases -- 246 deer -- were in the largest of the four disease management areas. DMA-2 spans about a dozen counties in south-central Pennsylvania and includes Fulton, Bedford and Blair counties. Lancaster County had one case of CWD in a captive-deer facility.

Urine-based lures and feeding are banned in the four disease-management areas due to fears CWD could spread at an increased rate.

The Game Commission had considered a general ban on deer feeding to help combat the spread of chronic wasting disease. The Game Commission is still accepting public comment on the proposed policy, Lau said.

“The fight against CWD is not a lost cause in Pennsylvania, but only by working together can the Game Commission and the public achieve goals to better protect the state’s deer and elk and ensure the future of hunting,” Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a release.