The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) is asking deer hunters to assist them in determining where the potential spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) exists by offering special Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits for eight Enhanced Surveillance Units (ESUs).
These special permits, says the PGC, that went on sale July 30, will allow hunters to take antlerless deer in the 2020-21 hunting seasons. It’s intended for hunters to use the tags to harvest deer, then submit the heads from those animals for CWD testing.
The PGC says CWD testing occurs statewide annually, but it’s especially critical in Enhanced Surveillance Units where CWD has been found.
According to the PGC, these surveillance units are small areas within larger Disease Management Areas. They surround the spot where a CWD positive wild or captive deer was found.
These CWD detections noteworthy in that they are at the leading edge of disease expansion, or at least 5 miles from any other past CWD detection.
With the help of hunters, the PGC intends to determine if those CWD positive deer were outliers, meaning the only sick one in their respective areas, or a clue to a bigger problem. The agency’s deer management goal is to limit CWD to no more than one percent of the adult deer in these units. By harvesting deer and submitting heads from those deer for testing, hunters can help determine where CWD exists and to what degree.
“The Game Commission has a CWD Response Plan,” said Christopher Rosenberry, chief of the agency’s game management division. “But hunters are the real key to making it work. The samples they provide from deer they harvest, especially in Enhanced Surveillance Units, help’s us identify where CWD exists on the landscape, at what prevalence, and what management actions we need to take to control it.”
The PGC will place deer-head collection bins in each unit. It will test all deer heads gathered with a valid harvest tag – at no cost to the hunter – and report back to those hunters with news of whether their deer tested positive for CWD or not. Locations of the deer-head collection bins can be found here: https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/Wildlife-RelatedDiseases/Pages/ChronicWastingDisease.aspx.
The Game Commission is aiming to collect at least 250 to 300 deer heads from each unit.
Within the eight DMAP areas associated with Enhanced Surveillance Units, the closest to Lehigh/Northampton counties are in DMAP Unit 3468 in Bern, Brecknock, Cumru, Heidelberg, Jefferson, Lower Heidelberg, Marion, North Heidelberg, Penn, South Heidelberg and Spring townships in Berks County; Brecknock, Clay, Earl, East Cocalico, East Earl, Elizabeth, Ephrata, Upper Leacock, Warwick, West Cocalico and West Earl townships in Lancaster County; and Heidelberg, Jackson, Millcreek, North Lebanon and South Lebanon townships in Lebanon County. It encompasses 346 square miles and has 4,430 permits available.
Maps showing the specific boundaries of each Enhanced Surveillance Unit can be found at: https://pagame.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id?084308c67d524d14ad90dcb2232b0c01 and here https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Wildlife/Wildlife-RelatedDiseases/Pages/ChronicWastingDisease.aspx.
DMAP tags for the Enhanced Surveillance Units can be purchased at any license issuing agent. Hunters just need to identify the unit they want to hunt by number says the PGC.
“We know Pennsylvania deer hunters are passionate,” Rosenberry said, and these additional tags gives them even more opportunity to enjoy that pursuit and, just as importantly, be our first line of defense in managing Chronic Wasting Disease. We’re all in this together. Getting the needed samples is critical. The additional DMAP tags are one tool to help us to obtain these samples. But we need samples from all deer harvested in the Enhanced Surveillance Unit. Extending the hunting season is another possible action the agency may take if not enough samples are obtained. Our hunters are the first line of defense and we need their help,” he concludes.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.