ADVISORY – WEDNESDAY – Joint Public Hearing on Chronic Wasting Disease

A joint hearing about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) will be held in Bedford, PA on Wednesday, Feb.9 by the Senate’s Game and Fisheries and Agriculture and Rural Affairs committees, according to committee chairs Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-49, and Sen. Elder Vogel, R-47.

Since first being detected in Pennsylvania deer roughly a decade ago, CWD has spread to all or part of 27 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.

The neurological disease affects members of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose, and reindeer/caribou). The abnormal proteins that cause CWD are shed in saliva, urine, and feces, meaning animals can be infected via animal-to-animal contact or through contaminated environments. CWD-infected animals might not show symptoms of the disease for 18 to 24 months, but all white-tailed deer and elk that contract CWD die, there are no exceptions.

Following detection of CWD, the Pennsylvania Game Commission established Disease Management Areas (DMAs) – currently there are four across the state – within which there is a prohibition of the rehabilitation of cervids (deer, elk and moose); the use or possession of cervid urine-based attractants in an outdoor setting; the removal of high-risk cervid parts; and the feeding of wild, free-ranging cervids. Additionally, increased testing continues in these areas to determine the distribution of the disease.

Managing CWD in Pennsylvania continues to be a difficult proposition and it will require a long-term commitment. A response plan was developed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission in 2020 with a number of prescriptions, including the prevention of human-caused introductions of CWD into free-ranging cervid populations outside of DMAs; the quick detection of CWD infections in new areas so management strategies can be implemented at the earliest opportunity; limiting sample prevalence to ≤ 1% in adult deer and meet surveillance goals within enhanced surveillance units (ESUs); preventing the disease from becoming established or spreading farther on the landscape in containment zones (CZs); limiting sample prevalence to ≤5% in hunter-harvested adult deer within established areas (EAs); and fostering two-way communications and utilizing human dimension techniques to assess stakeholder values and opinions on Game Commission CWD management efforts.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture operates two programs – the CWD Herd Certification Program (HCP) and the CWD Herd Monitored Program (HMP) – for premises that have farmed or captive Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) susceptible species.  Participation in one of these programs is mandatory.  In either option, CWD testing is required with sampling performed by certified CWD technicians, accredited veterinarians or state/federal government officials.

The Alliance for Public Wildlife, a group of scientists and professionals whose stated goal is establishing, developing, promoting, and defending principles and policies that will ensure the conservation of North American wildlife, has produced documents (The Challenge of CWD: Insidious and Dire, as well as a supplement to that analysis) examining the science behind CWD, the history and process of its spread, and the public policy implications and recommendations for dealing with it.

The joint hearing will feature testimony from Bryan Burhans, executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission; Kevin Brightbill, Pennsylvania’s state veterinarian and director of the Bureau of Animal Health and Diagnostic Services within the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Gregory Hostetter, the deputy secretary for Animal Health and Food Safety within the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture; Torin Miller, director of policy for the National Deer Association; and Josh Newton, president of the Pennsylvania Deer Farmers Association.

WHAT: Joint public hearing of the Senate’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs and Game and Fisheries committees about Chronic Wasting Disease.

WHEN: 5 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 9

WHERE: Bedford American Legion, 3721 US 220 BUS, Bedford PA, 15522


CONTACT:               Koty McGowan 

Cara Laudenslager






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