Some good news about chronic wasting disease for hunters in and around northern Lancaster County.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Disease Management Area 4, which covered nearly all of Lancaster County and parts of Berks and Lebanon counties, has been reduced ahead of the 2023-24 deer hunting seasons.
Disease Management Areas are created when chronic wasting disease is confirmed in wild or captive deer in an effort to limit the spread of the always fatal disease.
Chronic wasting disease is transmitted through fluids from animal to animal and attacks the central nervous system.
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Disease Management Area 4 was established in 2018 after two captive deer on a farm in West Cocalico Township were found to have chronic wasting disease.
The special zone was expanded a year later when four captive deer on a farm in Upper Leacock Township were found to have chronic wasting disease.
It was expanded again last year after captive deer in the south end were found to have chronic wasting disease.
During the 2022-23 hunting season, all of Lancaster County was in Disease Management Area 4 except for the area roughly north of Columbia and west of Manheim.
Once an area is placed in a disease management area, it remains in it until five consecutive years pass without further evidence of chronic wasting disease.
Well, it’s been five years since the 2018 discovery in West Cocalico, and no other cases of chronic wasting disease have been discovered in that area.
Since 2018, the Game Commission has tested 2,168 deer in Disease Management Area 4. Last year, the agency tested 300 deer, of which 148 were donated by hunters.
The Game Commission has collection bins scattered throughout the zone where hunters can deposit deer heads for testing.
No chronic wasting disease was found in any of the deer tested.
So the northern boundary of Disease Management Area 4 was moved south.
The Lebanon and Berks areas of Disease Management Area 4 were eliminated, and the area above the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Lancaster County was also removed.
The route is now the northern boundary of Disease Management Area 4.
With this move, the entire Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area is now out of Disease Management Area 4, along with State Game Lands 46 and 220.
It is a significant public and private hunting area that no longer has to comply with the strict regulations that come with the designation of a Disease Management Area.
Among them are:
— Any deer harvested within a disease management area must remain in the disease management area unless properly treated, which is a detailed effort.
— Urine-based deer attractants may not be used for hunting.
— It is not permitted to feed deer in the low season.
So far we have been lucky in Lancaster County as no wild deer with chronic wasting disease have been found.
According to the Game Commission, however, our luck may be running out.
Chronic wasting disease is considered established and thriving in Southcentral Pennsylvania counties of Bedford, Blair, Franklin, Fulton and Huntingdon.
It has been there for years and continues to get worse year after year.
In tests conducted last hunting season, one in three deer over 1 year old that were tested showed chronic wasting disease in that area.
That’s higher than the 1-in-5 ratio found just a year earlier.
Despite the spread of chronic wasting disease in this area, the Susquehanna River always served as the eastern boundary that chronic wasting disease in wild deer did not cross.
Until last year.
In 2022, Game Commission officials tested a free-range deer killed in Dauphin County that was found to have chronic wasting disease.
It is the first wild deer found with the disease east of the Susquehanna River, meaning it is closer to Lancaster County.
All in all, the Game Commission tested almost 11,000 deer for chronic wasting disease last year. More than 7,000 of these deer were sent for testing by hunters.
More than 400 wild deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease last year, 243 of which were harvested by hunters.
Both figures show increases compared to the previous year.
In 2021, 261 wild deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease, of which 174 were harvested by hunters.
Last winter, the Game Commission worked with the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine to trap 32 deer in Bedford and Fulton counties and fit them with radio collars and ear tags.
“A critical part of this research is testing deer that have been ear-tagged or collared,” Game Commission officials said in a news release.
Hunters who shoot tagged and collared deer in the area in question are encouraged to contact the Game Commission and report it.
“Based on the number of chronic wasting disease-positive animals we continue to detect in this area, it is clear that chronic wasting disease is an ongoing problem and will require long-term management,” said Andrea Korman, the Wildlife Commission’s chronic wasting disease supervisor. illness section.
“The people of Pennsylvania believe that responding to wildlife disease is one of the most important roles of the Game Commission.”
And really, the only tool available to the agency that it says has shown results is reducing deer populations.
Fewer deer means less contact between deer.
Ahead of the 2023–24 hunting season, the allocation of doe tags in several game management units was increased specifically due to chronic wasting disease.
Wildlife Management Units 2C, 2D, 2E, 4A, 4B, 4D, 4E and 5A all received thousands more tags each for the upcoming hunting season in hopes of reducing deer numbers to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease.
“Hunters are passionate about deer in Pennsylvania,” said Bryan Burhans, executive director of the Game Commission.
“And they will do almost anything to protect them. In this case, we need them to do what they do best. Hunt more!”
PJ Reilly is an LNP | LancasterOnline outdoor writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.