More deer with chronic wasting disease were harvested during the 2019-20 hunting season than since 2012, when the disease was discovered in Pennsylvania.
And that number could grow as more than 5,000 of the 16,000 samples collected remain to be tested, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
None of the confirmed cases were from deer harvested in Lancaster County. However, game commission spokeswoman Courtney Colley said deer with the disease have been found on captive farms here.
A total of 123 deer tested positive for the disease in the 2018-19 season. Last season’s number currently stands at 180.
The majority of the deer from the 2019-20 season that have tested positive for the disease so far were harvested in Bedford, Blair and Fulton counties, Colley said.
The fatal disease attacks the animals’ brains causing a loss of motor functions, she said. It can infect deer, elk and moose, and it spreads among animals through direct physical contact and through contact with bodily fluids. There are no known treatments or vaccines for the disease.
The majority of deer samples from the 2019-20 season were submitted by hunters who harvested their deer in disease management areas, Colley said. These areas are designated at-risk locations surrounding places where deer that have tested positive for the disease have been detected.
Hunters who harvest deer in those locations were encouraged to place the animals’ heads into collection containers so they can be sent out for testing.
Other testing samples come to the commission through butcher shops, taxidermists and from collected roadkill, Colley said.
Samples can be tested in a machine at a rate of about 90 at a time, Colley said.
Most of Lancaster County will be in a chronic wasting disease quarantine zone this year after a deer raised in captivity north of Lancaster city tested positive for the disease in 2019.
The 364-square-mile DMA 4 quarantine zone was established in 2018 and includes northern Lancaster County as well as parts of Berks and Lebanon counties.