Hunters urged to be smart, but not worry about fatal deer disease

It's a Thursday evening at Bakers Archery Supply and Thomas Kauffman is taking aim. While he does that, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is zeroing in on a frightening disease that has finally made its way here.

State officials announced Thursday they have confirmed the first positive case of chronic wasting disease in Pennsylvania on a deer farm in New Oxford, Adams County.

Officials have quarantined the farm and two others associated with the positive deer; in Williamsport, Lycoming County and in Dover, York County.

“We are trying to do what we can to try and make sure it's not in the wild population,” Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser said.

Pennsylvania shares its borders with several states that have found chronic wasting disease in their wild deer population. Although this one case was found in captivity, Halifax hunter Jason Weaver understands the magnitude of a possible breakout.

“The are so many hunters right now who aren't happy with the deer numbers and then disease comes in and hurts numbers more,” he said.

Since 1998, the Game Commission has tested more than 38,000 deer and elk for chronic wasting. Feaser hopes that this case was an isolated one.

“There is no reason to be concerned at this point,” he said.

Chronic wasting disease poses no direct danger to people or their pets. It attacks the brain and spinal cord of deer, elk and moose and is always deadly.

Hunters have been told not to worry, but also to stay smart, meaning deboning all meat, staying away from the brain and spinal cord, and always wearing gloves while field dressing.

“They have field dressing gloves you can buy. They go all the way up to shoulder length for that purpose,” Weaver said.

For Kauffman, this one case has not caused him alarm.

“If it was contained within a farm, hopefully it had no way to get in the wild population,” he said. “My concern is really minimal.”

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