Controlling spread of CWD still priority

Chronic wasting disease was discovered just across the Pennsylvania border from Bedford County in our neighboring state of Maryland’s wild herd in 2010.

Prior to that, CWD was discovered in adjacent West Virginia’s wild herd in 2005.

Then more recently it was detected in Pennsylvania’s wild herds in 2012. In 2013, the Pennsylvania Game Commission implemented Disease Management Area 2 initially encompassing a large portion of both Bedford and Blair counties.

Since 2012 more than 50 wild deer have been found positive within DMA 2’s boundaries, causing the Game Commission to expand the DMA annually.

In January 2017, after five years of unchecked disease expansion in DMA 2, it finally caught up with a family-run deer farm in Bedford County. The farm was under the Pa. Department of Agriculture’s CWD surveillance program, which required 100 percent mortality testing of all on-farm deaths.

The animals on this particular farm were in the surveillance program since 2003,with all mortalities over those years coming back not detected for CWD until this past January.

Regardless of all the efforts of Pennsylvania deer farmers and the Department of Agriculture to monitor and control CWD in private deer herds, the disease continues to spread in our wild Pa. herd, compromising the existence of many private herds in its path.

While the Department of Agriculture has no control over how CWD is managed in our wild herds, they do have the responsibility of overseeing and regulating that of private herds within the commonwealth.

Since the disease’s discovery in 2012, 2017 marked the first year that any private herds fell victim to CWD in DMA 2.

In July of this year, after proper protocol and communication channels were established, the Pa. Department of Agriculture, USDA and owners of the farm moved forward with control measures.

All the adult animals and newborn offspring were euthanized. Along with depopulation, the owners of the farm are also responsible for keeping all of their fences up for a minimum of five years and no CWD susceptible species are allowed on the premise.

The intent of the depopulation was to remove any risk of the disease spreading outside the private herd.

Once again the Department of Agriculture has shown its seriousness in combating CWD within private herds. Another farmer’s livelihood has fell victim to CWD, and the wild disease reservoir continues its march on with little resistance.

It is extremely sad to hear of an entire private herd being destroyed, and meanwhile the diseased wild deer that have been on the outside of their fences will continue to spread the disease through Bedford County and beyond, threatening the health and existence of other farmers.

While the CDC states no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans has been reported, the above outlines the need for further research to allow for better understanding and management of CWD in Pennsylvania.

This situation also clearly demonstrates a long overdue need for real action when it comes to managing CWD in our wild populations.

Jarrid Barry, of Hollidaysburg, is the vice president of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association.