Many factors can contribute to CWD


Pennsylvania’s whitetail deer herd is prominently in the news right now for a number of reasons.

First of all, recently about a dozen deer were found dead in upper Dauphin County. Chronic Wasting Disease was first suspected, of course, but Game Commission officials have examined each deer and determined that it probably was pneumonia that felled these animals. The dead deer all seemed to be younger, weaker, specimens and as always, they are the first ones to be downed by predators or diseases.

The brutal weather takes its toll on wildlife, no doubt about it. They are built to survive bad weather and cold, but when it gets to be extreme lengths and temperatures, some will succumb. Ice-crusted snow also makes it difficult for deer to travel in the woods to find food, they slip and fall and may die lingering deaths or fall to coyotes that come upon them. Life in the wild is no fairyland, it is a cruel and often vicious place as one creature preys upon another.

Also under deep consideration is to move opening day for rifle deer season to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Of course there are arguments being made both for the implementation of this change or for not implementing that change. Here’s what the Game Commission said about it

“The Board of Game Commissioners adopted a slate of deer seasons for 2019-20, proposing a split, six-day antlered deer season (Nov. 30-Dec. 6) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 7-14) in 20 Wildlife Management Units. The list includes WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B. The package also retains the full-season (Nov. 30-Dec. 14) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.

The preliminarily adopted season would start on the Saturday following Thanksgiving, rather than on Monday.

Hunters with Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permits may use the permits on the lands for which they were issued during any established deer season, and would continue to be allowed to harvest antlerless deer from Nov. 30-Dec. 6 in 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B. Fees for DMAP permits are $10.90 for residents and $35.90 for nonresidents. DMAP permits also may be transferred to Mentored Hunting Program participants.

Once again this year, the commissioners gave tentative approval to concurrent hunting of antlered and antlerless deer in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D during most seasons, with the first segment of the archery season to run from Sept. 21 to Nov. 29 in those WMUs.

The vote to approve or reject this big change will be done at the April commissioner’s meeting so we wait until then to really know.

And then of course, there is a running controversy over whether or not to employ wildlife professionals to bait (which would be easy pickings for winter-starved animals and then shoot them. This is in response to the terrible plague of CWD that is decimating our deer herd, for which there is no known cure so all efforts at this time are on research and management of the habitat and deer herd to prevent the spread of this disease.

But for sharpshooters to just pick them off like fish in a barrel, not knowing for sure whether any or all of them are actually afflicted with the malady? Seems so cruel and bloodthirsty to many and to hunters, taking out most of the deer in the southern part of Blair County — our area — would be a travesty.

But then, this is the way most things are usually looked at in our state when it comes to management programs for wildlife. Hunters look at what will be for their hunting convenience; season times, management units, number of antlerless licenses and so on. The Game Commission looks out for what is for the good and benefit of the resource — the deer itself.

So this is tricky. Since there is no way to tell before a deer is shot and killed whether or not it has CWD, They plan to eliminate a section of the population in the hardest-hit area, then examine each animal to determine whether or not it is afflicted with CWD. Those that are not will be processed and donated to food banks.

It seems like such a draconian measure but there is no other way known at this time to determine what percentage of a herd is afflicted. And I predict that this will probably be carried out soon. But then, what do I know?