Top Stories

Neurological disease spreading among deer ahead of hunting season, local officials warn

Hunters are preparing for deer hunting season, which kicks off on Nov. 30, but the Game Commission is issuing a warning.

>>PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Changes coming to deer hunting season in Western Pa.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is spreading among deer in Pennsylvania, and the neurological disease could be dangerous because of the meat many of us eat.

"As a person that's eating their meat and stuff I'm very concerned about what the future is for the shooting sports," said John Hoffman of Murrysville.

CWD is passed from deer to deer contact through salvia. It showed up in Pennsylvania in 2012 and now the game commission has added Westmoreland County to its Disease Management Area (DMA).

You can customize your WPXI News App to receive alerts for Washington County newsCLICK HERE to find out how.

"Part of Westmoreland County is in DMA 2 and the reason for that is because of the deer that have come up positive and Cambria and Somerset," said Pennsylvania Game Commission Officer Patrick Snickles.

No deer has tested positive in Westmoreland County yet, but since there have been so many cases in neighboring counties, Westmoreland falls into the game commission's 10-mile buffer zone.

Deer can easily spread CWD to each other and have the disease for years before showing symptoms.

"Often the best way to describe those is to say the deer looks drunk," said PA Game Commission Wildlife Management Supervisor Samara Trusso.


Deer can only be tested after its killed, which is why officials are urging hunters to have the meat tested before eating it.

"Chronic Wasting Disease, same family as mad cow disease that cross the species barrier into humans," said Snickles. "And then our recommendation is to not eat it, until you get our test results. That can take a little bit of time in the height of deer season -- especially rifle season."

Hunters in the disease area can get a deer tested for free, by dropping off the deer head to one of the testing bins. The Game Commission reminding hunters to keep their antlers if they want them.

Outside the CWD area, you can still get testing, but for a fee of about $80.

"So, we were trying to keep people from moving high risk parts around," said Trusso. "That's the spine, the brain, the eyes, the tonsils, the lymph nodes and the spleen. If you're coming from Ohio, or West Virginia, or Maryland with your excellent kill, you need to take those parts out before you come back into Pennsylvania."

Hunters we spoke to say they are concerned about CWD and how fast it's spreading. They want other hunters to be just as concerned.

"It just seems like we're in an epidemic here and something needs done," said Hoffman.

The Game Commission is seeking public comment on their proposed CWD plan which includes thinning the herds in affected areas. The comment period runs until February 2020.