Pennsylvania hunters who go elsewhere to chase whitetails are likely going to face some new rules this fall.
Chronic wasting disease continues to persist in Pennsylvania.
Game Commission executive director Matt Hough confirmed one additional hunter-killed deer taken this past fall tested positive for the always-fatal disease. That was out of 4,400 tested.
That’s likely not the only sick deer discovered, though.
Hough said preliminary testing done by the Department of Agriculture indicates two other road-killed deer also had the disease.
All were found within disease management area 2, in southcentral and southwestern Pennsylvania. Hough said none were found close enough to the boundaries to that unit to warrant expanding it.
That doesn’t mean some CWD changes aren’t coming, though.
By July 1 of this year, the commission will likely announce a new parts ban, Hough said.
Currently, hunters who travel to another state that has wasting disease – such as West Virginia or Maryland – are prohibited from brining back high-risk parts like brains, spinal cords and the like only if the animal was taken in a county with CWD. Otherwise, they can bring the entire carcass home.
“That’s virtually unenforceable,” Hough said.
This summer, the commission is likely to put in place rules that say no high-risk parts can be brought back from deer taken anywhere in such states, he said.
The commission instituted such a rule last year, but not until after archery seasons had already opened. Processors and taxidermists close to the state line – some of whom say 50 percent of their business is tied to out-of-state deer – complained and the commission rescinded it within a few weeks.
This time, plans are to put it into effect early enough for those businesses to adjust, Hough said.
The commission also continues to explore the idea of doing “targeted shooting” of specific whitetails.
The commission’s theory is that distinct subpopulations of wild deer are the ones carrying wasting disease. They’re passing it around through deer-to-deer contact, the thinking goes. Some evidence suggests that natural barriers, like mountains, limit their movement in specific ways, though.
That may be why, of the wild deer found to be CWD-positive, a disproportionately large percentage are deer killed by vehicles along the I-99 corridor, Hough said.
The commission may consider this winter going into those endemic areas and using sharpshooters to kill as many deer as possible, Hough said. The idea would be that if those sick deer could be eliminated, the disease might be wiped out, too, he added.
If the commission commits to such an action, Hough said it will meet with sportsmen and others in those areas to discuss plans first.