A second deer in Adams County tested positive for chronic wasting disease last week, while another from the same farm remains on the loose.
While both CWD cases have been limited to southcentral Pennsylvania, the news has hunters in the northeast concerned.
Chris Denmon, president of the North Mountain Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association and a founder of the Conservation Coalition, said he suspects the disease was in Pennsylvania for some time before the recent positive tests. Chronic wasting disease is a progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of cervid animals including deer, elk and moose. CWD is not believed to be transmissible to humans.
Pennsylvania became the 23rd state with cwd in either captive or wild deer. Both cases in the state have been limited to captive deer on the same Adams County farm. It has not been detected in wild deer.
In 2011 cwd was detected in a wild deer in Maryland, approximately 10 miles from the Pennsylvania border.
Knowing how close it was to our borders before, I find it hard to believe that it hasn't been here, Denmon said.
Denmon, who resides in Sweet Valley and hunts locally, said his biggest concern centers around a deer that escaped from the Adams County farm while state Department of Agriculture officials were in the process of killing deer on the farm to be tested.
Department spokeswoman Samantha Kreps said there were 10 deer on the farm, two have tested positive and the only one yet to be tested is the doe that escaped.
It hasn't been located, Krepps said on Friday. There has been a search ongoing since it escaped. We have cameras monitoring the areas and USDA Wildlife Services officials are out there.
Denmon said he believes there's a good chance the escaped deer is a carrier of cwd and it could be spreading the disease to wild deer.
It was in the same farm and deer can carry this disease for years before displaying symptoms, he said.
The Department of Agriculture has quarantined more than 20 farms in the state that may have connections with the deer on the Adams County farm. One of the quarantined farms is in Sugarloaf Township.
Krepps said it's unknown how long the quarantine will be in place and deer from those farms have been or will be tested. Some of the farms were removed from the quarantine list after test results came back negative, she said.
Also, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will conduct mandatory check stations in an area around the Adams County farm during the two-week rifle season later this month. All deer harvested by hunters in the area must be taken to the check station where samples will be taken to be tested.
Testing for deer harvested during the archery season was voluntary, according to PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser.
The importance is the percentage of tests done, not that every single deer is tested, Feaser said. The bulk of hunting is during the two-week rifle season.
During the archery season the agency collected 100 samples from hunter-killed deer, roadkills and deer shot for crop damage, so far. Feaser said there have yet to be any positive test results from those deer.
Denmon hopes the disease doesn't spread into other areas, much less the wild population. If it does, he said, cwd will be around for a long time.
The prions that spread the disease, they don't even know how long they remain in the ground, Denmon said. If this progresses it can be devastating. The threat is there.