Pennsylvania Expands CWD Quarantine to 12 Deer Farms; State Vet Calls for Ban on Feeding, Mineral Blocks

Pennsylvania officials have expanded its quarantine of deer farms after its investigation into any that may have had contact or have had contact with a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease.

Pennsylvania officials are looking for a deer that escaped an enclosure where another deer died of CWD. (Photo: PSU)

Twelve farms now are listed under the quarantine, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced Friday. The department is seeking any and all farms that have had any contact with the CWD-infected deer, according to this report in The Patriot-News.

The newspaper reported that as state officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services division were killing deer in an enclosure where an infected deer died, one doe broke through the fence and escaped. Officials are searching for that deer although the area surrounding the 1.5-acre enclosure farm is primarily wooded suburbia.

For the full story from Marcus Schneck and The Patriot-News, go here.

Schneck also has an updated story from hunters’ check-in stations.


Ban on feeding?

Pennsylvania already prohibits feeding bears and elk but has no such restriction about whitetails.

David Wolfgang, a veterinarian in the Penn State University College of Agricultural Sciences, believes that should change. Wolfgang is an extension service veterinarian and field studies director in veterinary and biomedical sciences.

“The commissioners should follow the advice they have been given by a variety of deer experts, including the agency’s own wildlife veterinarian, and stop the feeding of deer,” Wolfgang said in this story posted on the Penn State University news site. “When we feed deer, we congregate the animals, and that dramatically increases the potential that diseases, such as chronic wasting disease (CWD), will spread among them. There is no disagreement about that.

“It would be wise for them to go ahead now and do the right thing for the wildlife of Pennsylvania,” he said.

Wolfgang represents Penn State on the state’s Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force, which also includes representatives from the Game Commission and the state departments of agriculture and health. He is most concerned about another practice that game commissioners could stop: the placing of salt or mineral blocks for deer.

“Where salt licks or mineral blocks are put out, obviously deer congregate, and that is bad enough,” Wolfgang explained. “But what’s worse is that after being exposed to rain and snow, the minerals leach into the surrounding ground, and then for years deer bite and chew at the dirt.

“If a CWD-infected deer would visit the mineral lick, prions that spread the disease likely would get into the soil from its urine and feces. The last thing we want is for deer to be eating dirt in areas where deer have congregated.”

Wolfgang, who is a past president of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association, also is worried about the wide use of deer urine by bowhunters as a lure or attractant. He suggested that game commissioners consider banning that practice in Pennsylvania, as well.

Doe urine, collected at deer farms across the country, is packaged commercially and sold to help archers draw into arrow-shooting range the mature bucks they seek.

“Some scientists now wonder if the wide distribution of doe urine might be partly responsible for the spread of CWD from the West to the East,” he said.

“Doe urine from deer in other states should not be introduced into Pennsylvania soils. Even the small risk that the purchased doe urine might contain CWD-causing prions should discourage responsible hunters from using it.”

Read the entire PSU press release here.

What do you think about Wolfgang’s assertions? Feeding and salt or mineral blocks should be prohibited? What about deer urine?

Let us know your comments below.