Reducing Deer Numbers Will Not Be Part PA. Chronic Wasting Disease Management

Too few landowners gave permission, Game Commission will continue work to educate public about CWD.

Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer
Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer

Pennsylvania – -( The Pennsylvania Game Commission has not received the necessary support from landowners in Bedford and Blair counties to move forward with plans to reduce the deer population in a 100-square-mile area as part of a pilot project on chronic wasting disease (CWD).

Reducing deer numbers was part of a strategy to reduce the effect and spread of CWD.

Other phases of the project, including placing GPS collars on deer to study their movements and survival, will continue. And it’s hoped that, by next year, increased awareness about CWD and the threat the disease poses to deer and elk statewide will bring about the support necessary locally to begin the phase of the project that has been put on hold.

While deer will not be taken in the pilot project this year, the Game Commission still is working to coordinate isolated targeted-removal operations in other areas where a solitary CWD-positive deer has been detected.

The pilot project and the response plan to conduct targeted-removal operations when a solitary CWD-positive deer is detected both were explained in detail at the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners meeting Jan. 28 and are available to view at the agency’s YouTube channel.

Targeted removal of deer to combat CWD always takes place following the close of hunting seasons, ensuring that hunters always have the first opportunity to take deer in a given area.

But where targeted removal of deer must occur on private land, it is done with landowner permission.

In recent weeks, staff with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (USDA-WS) began seeking landowner permission for targeted removal of deer to occur as part of the pilot project within Deer Management Assistance Program Unit 2874 in Bedford and Blair counties. Few permissions were secured.

“While the lack of access to private land is unfortunate, it could well demonstrate there is work to do when it comes to educating the public about CWD, and we will be ramping up our efforts to bring the facts about this disease and its potential impacts on Pennsylvania to light,” said Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management Director Matthew Schnupp. “As it is now, CWD has been detected only in a few parts of the state. Our pilot project in Bedford and Blair counties is being conducted where the problem is worst, but hunters in most areas of the state have not had to deal with CWD in the deer that they hunt, or abide by the regulations intended to slow its spread.

“While CWD is here in Pennsylvania, we can manage the disease to limit its spread and protect as many of the state’s deer as we can,” Schnupp said. “And we will continue to work hard to implement disease-control measures that benefit Pennsylvania’s deer and deer-hunting tradition.”

CWD is an always-fatal, incurable disease affecting deer and elk. In recent years in Bedford and Blair counties, the disease has been detected with increasing regularity. For more information on CWD, visit

  • 10 thoughts on “Reducing Deer Numbers Will Not Be Part PA. Chronic Wasting Disease Management

    1. NDA Urges Caution when Considering CWD Research Claims
      February 18, 2019 | by National Deer Alliance

      Please consider the following research, which is related to the claim currently receiving a good deal of publicity that Spiroplasma bacteria are the causative agents of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs) like chronic wasting disease (CWD). We are encouraged that researchers continue to seek answers about this very complicated disease, and are hopeful that what is learned can help us make prudent decisions about how to manage it for the long-term health of wild deer, hunting, and industry. A statement from experts is being drafted in response, and will be shared when it is available.

      For more information about CWD, as well as a searchable research database, please visit the CWD Alliance website at

      Research claiming that bacteria are the causative agents of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies has never been reproduced despite extremely rigorous attempts to do so.

      In blind studies done by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, samples of brain material infected with scrapie, along with uninfected samples, were searched for Spiroplasma spp. and other common bacteria and bacteria-like structures using Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplification (PCR is a method widely used in molecular biology to make many copies of specific DNA segments). Researchers found no evidence that any eubacterium, including Spiroplasma or any other bacteria type, was consistently associated with scrapie-infected brain tissue, thus concluding that the “agent responsible for TSE disease cannot be a spiroplasma or any other eubacterial species.”


      Absence of Spiroplasma or Other Bacterial 16S rRNA Genes in Brain Tissue of Hamsters with ScrapieIrina Alexeeva, Ellen J. Elliott, Sandra Rollins, Gail E. Gasparich, Jozef Lazar, Robert G. RohwerJournal of Clinical Microbiology Jan 2006, 44 (1) 91-97; DOI: 10.1128/JCM.44.1.91-97.2006

      An extensive research project completed at Louisiana State University on the potential roles of Spiroplasmain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies found that following inoculation of Spiroplasma mirum into neonatal goats and five month-old white-tailed deer, none of the animals developed clinical signs or pathology seen in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. In this study, the bacteria were introduced to the animals intracerebrally, intravenous, or intradermally. Additionally, researchers conducting this study tested three species of Spiroplasma and found that they were susceptible to minimal dilutions of common laboratory disinfectants as well as heat sterilization of only 250°F for 15 minutes. In a wide array of other studies, samples of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy-infected material treated with similar sterilization methods were shown to remain infectious; thus indicating that other factors not related to bacteria result in the transmission and/or persistence of the disease.


      French, Hilari Maree, “Characterization of Spiroplasma mirum and its role in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies” (2011).
      LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 3012.

      Nearly all experimental examination of TSE-causing agents point to proteins at the infectious agent.

      The hallmark study of the prions’ role in transmissible spongiform encephalopathies was conducted by Dr. Stanley Prusiner who demonstrated that after adding enzymes that destroyed DNA and RNA to scrapie-infected brain material, the material remained infections. These enzymes would have damaged or destroyed bacteria present in the samples. However, when he adding protein-neutralizing enzymes to the scrapie-infected brain material, it’s infectivity plummeted. Thus, he demonstrated that the causative agent of the disease was most likely protein based, not bacterial-based. It should be noted that Prusiner’s work earned a Nobel Prize due to its rigor and reproducibility by other researchers.


      Prusiner SB. (1982). Novel proteinaceous infectious particles cause scrapie. Science. 9;216(4542):136-44.

      Artificially synthesized prions have shown to be capable of causing prion disease.

      To rule out the role of unidentified substances as disease causative agents in samples of infectious tissues, researchers successfully created a “clean” synthetic version of the scrapie prion that was capable of infecting mice.


      Legname G, Baskakov IV, Nguyen HB, et al. (2004). Synthetic Mammalian Prions. Science. 7;305:673-676…xqXavMJL_ma3qVJ5EACDjXF8BpZ1M0ZKp39SMw_6AemPw

    2. Dave in Fairfax: you are right about Bambi Lovers, when any of the states NJ or Pa they want to set up special hunts and here they all come out to say NO!!!!!!! A lot of the problems are in the park systems and in counties that are so populated standard hunts can’t be done! I delivered to a Nursery in Morris County years ago, they had a 12′ fence around their property with gates jut as big, I had to line the truck up with the gate then they came out with 10 people to fend off the deer so I could back in to unload my truck! The owner told me the house across the street was landscaped 3 to 4 times a year at a cost of around 6 to 8 thousand dollars a clip, on top of that they were Bambi lovers, Deer well fed, owners Dumber than a big BOX OF ROCKS!!!!!!!

      1. Tell me about it. We have critters go up and down our street at night. Everything from tree rats to black bears and very few of us see them. I seriously think you could go from the coast to WV under fairly good cover without much of a problem, and only breaking cover for streets and rare areas, and I suspect the animals do just that. We lose pets around here routinely, but our gov won’t let us do anything about it. I asked, and I’m not allowed to do anything to a coyote attacking a neighbor’s cat (it happened). We can’t even pick up the road kills. DOT picks them up and turns them into mulch.

    3. What ever makes sense and will solve the problem you can count on the PA game commission going in the opposite direction.

    4. If things in PA are the same as here in Virginia, then to some degree they are bailing water from a sinking vessel while ignoring the repair of a very large hole in the same vessel.
      While game regulations forbid the feeding of deer (except for crop growth), the sporting goods store shelves are full of all of the products and blocks that are meant for the attracting and feeding of deer. The deer come to a central place to feed from these products and, through their saliva that is left on the attractant, they transfer the disease (prion).
      The Game Department has NO jurisdiction over the stores that sell these products. As much as I dislike the government writing legislation, there needs to be a bill passed by the State Legislatures that would make it illegal for these products to be sold or imported into areas where CWD is emerging, established or adjacent to these areas.

    5. All you game biologists and avid hunters be nice to me here please?
      I’m ignorant, so pardon my question, but is CWD the fall out from too few wolves removing the weak from the herd?
      I am wondering if that’s how it started.. I see how man has artificially boosted the population, and takes only the biggest and the best during hunting season.
      .. Just the opposite of a healthy eco system, that’s thinned out nature’s way!

      1. No, it’s the result of the Bambi lovers not allowing enough deer to be culled, resulting in over crowding. Read Malthus, that always has bad results.

        1. Well, sort of but that’s really just the spreading of it. It’s caused by a malformed prion in the brain that isn’t flushed from the body. The CWD is very contagious and the over population of deer, due to non-culling of herds, leads to rapid spreading of the disease, which is always fatal.

          Property owners must be educated to the fact that if the deer population isn’t thinned dramatically CWD may, in the near future, decimate the entire deer population in the State.

          1. Absolutely, I was just annoyed, so I didn’t give a thorough answer.
            The cause of rapid spread is the overcrowding brought on by the lack of culling. The prions are the initial cause of the disease, as it is with cows and and other species. It’s also an issue if nervous tissue that is contaminated is eaten. That’s why feeding it to our other meat sources is an issue. It’s also a problem with cannibalism. ‘Course that has other issues as well. %-)

      2. Overcrowding by deer can accelerate the spread of the disease as it is transmitted through saliva. Deer groom each other and eat the same food sources. Thus feeding and baiting bans are always a first step. Regardless of CWD, trying to balance deer with habitat is always a goal of game management. Extensive culls however have been shown not to be always effective in slowing the spread of CWD. Game managers lose hunter support as they seem to try anything, regardless of success, because of the excuse “we have to do something”. The fact is there is no known way to stop or cure this at this time and there may never be.

        As to wolves, coyotes are filling that niche very well, though the wolf is a superior predator. What is needed is a balance of hunters and a reduction of deer in many places to meet both natural and social limits. The outlook here is bleak as hunter numbers are falling like a rock. Some things just don’t have easy answers. This is one of them.

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