While Chronic Wasting Disease hasn't been found in wild deer in Pennsylvania and has been isolated to two captive deer on an Adams County farm, Pennsylvania Game Commission officials in the northeast will be on the lookout for the disease during the rifle season.
PGC information and education supervisor Bill Williams said staff at the agency's region office in Dallas will collect samples on the second and third days of the season to be tested for CWD. The samples will be taken from heads that are collected from local deer processors, and 800 samples will be taken for the region.
There's interest in it in this area because it's gotten a lot of coverage on the state level, as it should, Williams said. People have been calling the office to get more information on it. Many want to know if the meat is safe to eat.
Kevin Naugle, who owns Naugle's Custom Butchering and Deer Processing in Lehman Township, said the disease isn't a concern because the parts of a deer where it's found – such as the brain and spinal cord, aren't consumed. Besides, Naugle said, CWD hasn't been found in wild deer.
Even with the chops, we make boneless butterfly cuts so there would be no impact, he said.
Frank Kotula, owner of Frank's Wildlife Studio on Wilkes-Barre Township, said just about every Pennsylvania deer brought to his shop has the head attached, but he isn't worried about the disease while handling specimens.
It's not something that humans can get and I wear gloves all the time while working, Kotula said. That should be mandatory with all taxidermists.
If Kotula did get a deer in his shop from the CWD-area of Adams County, he said he wouldn't have a problem mounting it, but would let the Game Commission know to make sure it was tested.
Taxidermist Scott Gulliver of Hollenback Township said restrictions prevent transporting certain parts of deer from an infected area, and he has never had an issue with the disease in his line of work.
If a deer was brought to his shop from Adams County, Gulliver said he wouldn't have a problem working with it as long as the restrictions were followed.
As long as it's just the antlers and the cape, it's OK, Gulliver said.
Williams said the PGC's region office does get calls all the time reporting sick deer, but all are the result of an old wound, pneumonia or another illness. Any sick deer are put down and tested for CWD, he said.
While the disease has only been found in captive deer so far, Kotula is worried about the potential impact if it's found in the wild population.
It's a concern because hunters may not hunt these areas, we could start losing business and the economy will suffer, he said.