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Commission prepares to collect CWD test samples

From Pennsylvania Game Commission

-- As of Nov. 29, Game Commission officials, veterinarians and laboratory technicians from the state and U.S. departments of Agriculture are sampling thousands of hunter-killed deer to determine whether chronic wasting disease has come to the Commonwealth. 

For nearly a decade, the state has tested hunter-killed deer, and has not found or confirmed any cases of CWD-infected deer in Pennsylvania. Current plans are to collect samples from about 4,000 hunter-killed deer to test for CWD in the upcoming firearms deer season.  Last year, samples from 3,882 deer were tested; CWD was not detected in any of the samples.

Game Commission deer aging teams are collecting deer heads throughout the state which will be taken to the six Game Commission Region Offices, where samples will be collected for testing.

CWD tests on the deer samples will be conducted at the University of Pennsylvaniaís veterinary diagnostic laboratory at the New Bolton Center in Chester County.  Results are expected in 2012.

The Game Commission collected CWD samples of brain tissue and lymph nodes from elk that were not to be mounted, and requested taxidermists submit caped heads from elk provided by hunters seeking to have their trophies mounted.  Elk hunters were provided pre-paid mailers for taxidermists to submit the samples.  All elk samples will be tested for CWD at the New Bolton Center as well. 

Researchers also collected lung samples to look for signs of tuberculosis, and blood samples to look for evidence of brucellosis from the 53 elk harvested.  Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian, said the agency will release the elk and deer test results as soon as they are available.

The Game Commission, with the assistance of the Pennsylvania and U.S. departments of Agriculture, has conducted tests on more than 350 elk and more than 30,000 deer taken by hunters in Pennsylvania over the past nine years.  Since 1998, more than 1,100 deer and elk that had died of unknown illness or were exhibiting abnormal behavior also have been tested.  No evidence of CWD has been found in these samples.  The Game Commission will continue to collect samples from deer and elk that appear sick or behave abnormally with special emphasis in the area closest to the known positive case in Allegheny County, Maryland.

Even though CWD had not been detected in Pennsylvania, CWD testing of healthy appearing hunter-killed deer or elk is available through the New Bolton Center.  Hunters who wish to have their deer tested may do so for a fee by calling the New Bolton Center Laboratory, phone (610) 444-5800.

In an effort to prevent the introduction of CWD into the Commonwealth, the Game Commission has implemented an executive order prohibiting hunters from importing specific carcass parts from members of the deer family ñ including mule deer, elk and moose ñ from 19 states and two Canadian provinces. 

The importation ban affects hunters heading to Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland (only from CWD Management Area), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (only from Madison and Oneida counties), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area), West Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area), Wisconsin and Wyoming, as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

The most notable change this year in the list of states impacted by Pennsylvaniaís Parts Ban is the detection of CWD in Maryland. Pennsylvania hunters heading to Maryland should become familiar with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources CWD Management Area, which includes a portion of Allegany County noted as Private Land Code 233 in Marylandís annual Guide to Hunting and Trapping. This section, includes Marylandís Green Ridge State Forest east of Flintstone and Oldtown.

In West Virginia, the CWD Containment Area also has been expanded as the disease has moved outside of Hampshire County. The new CWD Containment Area now includes all of Hampshire County and portions of Hardy and Morgan counties.  For details, hunters should contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources or the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

The Pennsylvania prohibition does not limit the importation of meat, without the backbone; cleaned skull plate with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue present; cape, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy mounts.

The Pennsylvania CWD task force plan is updated annually, and can be viewed on the Commission website at www.pgc.state.pa.us or the CWD Alliance website at www.cwd-info.org.

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