Deer culling delay only temporary

This part of the Keystone State is taking the Pennsylvania Game Commission to task for wanting to kill more than 2,000 deer in Blair and Bedford counties in a concerted attack against chronic wasting disease, a malady showing up increasingly in the commonwealth’s whitetail population.

As the Mirror pointed out in an editorial on Feb. 7, more discussion is important before the state implements its plan to bait and kill the deer in question, which would take place in a 100-square-mile area comprising parts of the two counties.

Discussion is in fact continuing, as indicated by a gathering of hunters at the Plum Creek VFW on Feb. 7. At the Feb. 7 gathering, it was pointed out that some culling of deer herds already has occurred in Franklin, Fulton and Clearfield counties, but not of the large scope planned for the Blair-Bedford target area.

In response to hunter and landowner opposition here, state Rep. Jim Gregory, R-80th, was successful in convincing the Game Commission to delay the planned bait-and-kill until at least next year.

That will provide a window for much additional discussion and debate — and research about the prevalence of the disease here and elsewhere across the United States.

The disease has been found in 26 states.

As reported in a Mirror article on Feb. 8, hunters have been told that the commission wants the deer killed, one way or the other: If hunters don’t harvest enough deer to decrease the herd in the targeted area, wildlife shooters from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will return to finish the culling.

Sharpshooters already had been dispatched to the area prior to Gregory’s intervention.

But what’s happening across the nation merits notice and much reflection by people of this region, hunters and non-hunters alike. As reported by the Wall Street Journal on Feb. 8, fears are continuing to mount in much of this country about the highly contagious, fatal, neurodegenerative brain disease for which there is yet no known cure.

Brian Murphy, chief executive of the Quality Deer Management Association of Bogart, Ga., a 60,000-member organization founded in 1988, was quoted in the Journal as saying, “What keeps me up at night is the day — and I hope it never occurs — if there is ever a connection made between CWD and human health.”

Scientists have found no cases of the disease being transmitted to humans through tainted venison or other means. However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studies showing its risks to nonhuman primates raise concerns.

Scientists say CWD is similar to mad-cow disease, which has been linked to fatal illness in humans.

So-far-unsuccessful efforts are reported continuing to try to produce a CWD vaccine.

Officials in Tennessee, the 26th state to have reported cases of the disease, plan to cull deer populations in affected areas. Meanwhile, Tennessee has imposed bans on bringing deer or deer meat into Tennessee or out of the infected counties.

With every new preventative measure undertaken across the United States, it’s becoming more clear that CWD isn’t being — and shouldn’t be — pooh-poohed.

Area landowners and hunters, while correct in demanding information and honest answers, need to allow a measure of concern and caution to prevail here as well.