The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has confirmed that a doe that lived at the Adams County deer farm where the state's first confirmed case of chronic wasting disease was discovered has escaped into the wild.
Krepps said the state is awaiting test results from the remaining deer from the farm, which were killed and sampled for chronic wasting disease (CWD), which is lethal to deer, moose and elk, but has not been found to be transmitted to humans.
It was unclear by the email on which day the animal escaped. And the state Department of Agriculture did not issue an advisory on its website warning hunters in the area that they might encounter a deer that had escaped the pen.
Game Commissioner Ronald A. Weaner said he was informed of the doe's escape earlier this week but hasn't heard any more details since then.
Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser could not be reached for comment immediately.
Two weeks ago, officials confirmed the state's first case of CWD in a 3-year-old doe raised in a backyard pen in Straban Township.
The doe was one of 10 deer kept at the property, which has been quarantined along with one in Washington Township, York County, and another in Williamsport that the deer had passed through. The Department of Agriculture's quarantine prevents movement of animals on and off the premises.
The disease is spread both directly, through animal-to-animal contact, and indirectly, from soil and other surfaces to animals, most likely through saliva and feces of infected animals or decomposing carcasses.
Officials fear if the disease is spread to the wild-deer population it could have a drastic impact on that population and the hunting industry in the state.
To me it's a little bit graver issue, Weaner said about the disease's possible spread into the wild. This is the No. 1 priority for the Game Commission right now.
Rep. Will Tallman, R-Reading Township, said Friday evening he was not aware of the farm-raised doe escaping into the wild.
That is a very big concern, he said.
In an effort to prevent the disease from spreading to the wild-deer population, the state Game Commission last week implemented a response plan that currently includes voluntary testing of deer killed by hunters within a 600-square-mile disease management plan.
During the two-week firearms season that begins after Thanksgiving, hunters within that management area will be required to have their deer sampled for CWD and will be prohibited from taking high-risk deer parts out of that area, which includes parts of Adams, York and Cumberland counties.
CWD attacks the brains of infected deer, elk and moose, producing small lesions that eventually result in death. It is transmitted by direct animal-to-animal contact through saliva, feces and urine.
Signs of the disease include weight loss, excessive salivation, increased drinking and urination, and abnormal behavior such as stumbling, trembling and depression. Infected deer and elk also might allow unusually close approach by humans or natural predators. The disease is fatal and there is no known treatment or vaccine.
State veterinarian Craig Shultz said last week no other deer at the Straban Township property were showing outward signs of the disease, but cautioned that there is as long as a two-year incubation period for CWD.
Some studies indicate the infectious agent that leads to chronic wasting disease is spread in the feces of infected animals long before they become ill. The agent is retained in the soil, where it, along with plants, is eaten by other animals, which then become infected.
Chronic Wasting Disease was first discovered in Colorado captive mule deer in 1967, and has since been detected in 21 other states and two Canadian provinces, including Pennsylvania's neighboring states of New York, West Virginia and Maryland. Pennsylvania is the 22nd state to find CWD in a captive or wild deer population.
Weaner said with more than 1,000 deer farms in the state raising and moving deer all over the country, it was just a matter of time before the disease appeared in Pennsylvania.
When you think about it, it's amazing we haven't gotten it before, he said.