The second disease management area established in response to chronic wasting disease in Pennsylvania deer populations includes parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Huntingdon counties.
Pennsylvania Game Commission officials hope to mitigate the spread of the disease by imposing restrictions on all harvested deer in the affected areas.
"The second executive order creates a second disease management area over nearly 900 square miles in Bedford, Blair, Cambria and Huntingdon counties and changes laws, regulations and restrictions related to free-ranging deer and other cervids [members of the deer family]," Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said in a press release. "They are steps we have taken to provide additional protections to the state's invaluable populations of wild deer and elk."
The restrictions make it illegal to remove or export "high-risk" parts of the animal, including the head, spine or spleen, from the disease management area, officials said.
All harvested deer are subject to testing for the disease, and any animals within the management area cannot be rehabilitated or transported to another part of the state.
Hunters and private landowners within the areas will also see restrictions, including a ban on urine-based attractants and indirect and direct feeding of wild deer.
The first disease management area was created under executive order from Roe in October and encompassed parts of Adams and York counties.
The disease was first detected in a farm deer in Adams County and has since spread to other parts of the state, officials said.
Combined, Pennsylvania's disease management areas now encompass about 1,500 square miles of land.
"This disease ... has remarkable persistence in the environment," said Dr. Walt Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian stationed at Penn State at the animal diagnostic laboratory.
The disease can be passed to other deer from direct contact with an infected deer or spread indirectly through the environment, he said.
Once introduced into the environment, the disease survives indefinitely, Cottrell said. But the rate at which the disease spreads or any potential increases in infection among Pennsylvania's deer population is impossible to determine, he noted.
Unless researchers discover a new way to combat the disease, Pennsylvania deer herds will decline, Cottrell said.
He noted that in Wisconsin, where chronic wasting disease was first detected in 2002, the prevalence rate in adult male deer has increased to about 24 percent.
Pennsylvania's deer population is more dense and could see a higher rate of infection, he added.
"We are counting on all Pennsylvanians to help us in this important endeavor," Roe said. "Their cooperation will play a major role in helping to contain or limit the spread of CWD within the commonwealth."
Additional information, including maps of the disease management areas, can be found at www.pgc.state.pa.us, Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau said.
Mirror Staff Writer Zach Geiger is at 946-7535.