Pennsylvania offers advice on chronic wasting disease

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white-tailed deer

HARRISBURG, Pa. — With the 2021 hunting season underway in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture released recommended best management practices to help protect hunters and their families against chronic wasting disease. 

Since it was identified in Pennsylvania, hunters have had a heightened awareness of the fatal neurological disease that can affect deer, elk, moose and caribou. The following best management practices are recommended to be adopted by Pennsylvania’s hunters and processors.

Do not shoot, handle or eat meat from wild deer or elk that look sick, are acting strangely or are found dead. However, keep in mind that most infected deer might not look or act sick. Report any sightings of sick or abnormal-acting wild deer or elk to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. 

If you are hunting in or near a disease management area, place your deer’s head in game commission collection containers to submit it for testing. 

If you have your deer or elk commercially processed, consider asking that your animal be processed separately to avoid mixing meat from multiple animals. It is recommended that processors take extra care to thoroughly clean equipment after processing each wild deer. 

When field-dressing or processing deer, wear disposable gloves. Minimize how much you handle the organs, particularly brain or spinal cord tissue. Do not use household knives or other kitchen utensils for field dressing. Double bag high-risk parts and dispose of in an approved landfill. 

“At this time, current published scientific studies support the hypothesis that there is a strong species barrier protecting humans from CWD,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Kevin Brightbill. “To date, there have not been any documented cases of humans being infected with CWD.” 

After considering published scientific studies and best management practices, if hunters hunting outside of a Disease Management Area are still concerned, they can have their deer tested for an $80 fee through the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System. Information on testing locations, fees and process can be found on the system’s website. 

To learn more about chronic wasting disease in Pennsylvania, visit pgc.pa.gov. Processors interested in learning more about voluntary best management practices are encouraged to review “Best Management Practices for Deer Processors and Taxidermists: Reducing the Risk of CWD Transmission” by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

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