AP NEWS

State to ‘remove’ deer in Bedford, Blair

January 26, 2019

The state Game Commission has partnered with a federal agency to reduce the number of deer in Bedford and Blair counties this winter.

According to a news release from the Game Commission, the agency, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, is conducting the project to reduce the impact of chronic wasting disease.

Game Commission staff members are conducting post-hunting season deer population surveys to estimate the number of deer in the area. This estimate will be compared to the population objective of 2,000 to 2,500 deer.

Targeted removal, conducted by government professionals, will then be used to reduce the deer numbers to match this objective, the report states.

The statement didn’t explain how the deer would be “removed.” The news release was sent out after 4 p.m. Friday as the office closed for the weekend.

Removals will only occur on property with landowner permission, and will be completed this winter and early spring.

Game Commission staff members are capturing and marking deer as part of this project. Captured deer will be marked with ear tags and radio collars, and then released. The radio collars will provide movement and survival data. Captured and collared deer will not be killed as part of the targeted removal.

Deer harvested through targeted removals will not go to waste. All deer will be tested for chronic wasting disease, and infected deer will be disposed of properly. The remaining venison from targeted removal operations will be donated to cooperating landowners and to local food banks.

The Game Commission reports that it is implementing this reduction to minimize the impact of the disease on the deer population in this specific area. The decision to reduce deer numbers is based on experiences in other states where reducing deer numbers has reduced the disease’s impact.

The disease is a threat to Pennsylvania’s deer and elk populations. Deer and elk infected with it have lower survival rates, and this can lead to fewer deer and elk and fewer hunting opportunities. Unfortunately, the disease continues to increase in Bedford and Blair counties.

During the past deer hunting seasons, the Game Commission provided hunters the first opportunity to harvest more deer by increasing antlerless licenses and Deer Management Assistance Program permits in northern Bedford and southern Blair counties. In addition to conducting population surveys, the Game Commission does not take the decision to reduce deer populations lightly, officials said in the report.

Without effective action, the disease will continue to increase. Eventually deer populations and hunting opportunities decline. Based on experiences observed in other states, reducing deer numbers is the best management option, according to the Game Commission.

The disease can be transmitted directly through animal-to-animal contact or indirectly through contaminated environments. Prions or misfold proteins can be shed onto the environment through bodily fluids, and once there, can remain infectious for several years. Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for chronic wasting disease.

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