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Pennsylvania revises Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) quarantine requirements for deer farms

Christian Fernsby |
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture established a CWD Core Captive Management Zone, to control the disease in the area of the state where it is most prevalent, while allowing deer farms to stay in business.

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“Pennsylvania has taken CWD very seriously, taking aggressive steps to contain the disease, using a scientific, fact-based approach,” State Veterinarian Dr. Kevin Brightbill said. “Despite aggressive measures, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of deer testing positive over the past two years.

“The goal of implementing such a zone is to slow the spread of CWD across Pennsylvania while scientists race toward establishing long-term solutions. This order provides a path forward for deer farmers to maintain their livelihoods and continue to offer goods and services.

"A key component of the order is providing incentive for deer farms to implement management techniques, such as herd density and age management, genetic selection and other rapidly evolving scientific advancements that make their operations and their herds less susceptible to CWD.”

CWD is a highly contagious disease that develops very slowly in the lymph nodes, spinal tissue and brains of deer and similar animals like reindeer and elk. It does not affect other livestock. To date there is no evidence that it can be spread to humans.

The PA Department of Agriculture oversees the state’s deer farming industry. Pennsylvania’s 760 breeding farms, hunting preserves and hobby farms provide breeding does, breeder and trophy bucks, semen, embryos, antlers and urine products to Pennsylvania and states across the nation.

Pennsylvania deer farms must participate in one of two stringent programs – the federal Herd Certified program, or the state Herd Monitored Program.

Both programs require proper IDs; record-keeping on all animals moved on or off farms; annual herd inventories; reporting of CWD suspects, animals that die, escape or are stolen; testing animals over a year old that die for any reason; maintaining a minimum 8-foot high fence; obtaining permits to import animals from out-of-state; and other measures to monitor herds for disease.

Blair, Bedford and Fulton County deer farms in the new CWD Core Captive Management Zone will be affected by the updated quarantine as follows:

- Farms will not be permitted to move high risks parts out of the zone. This includes the brain, eyes, tonsils, lymph nodes, backbone, spleen and anything containing visible brain or spinal cord material where the prions that spread CWD are concentrated.

- Farms will be permitted to move low risk parts out of the zone including antlers, clean skull caps, capes and deboned meat.

- Deer farms in this zone can continue to import deer into the zone.

- Deer farms in this zone can continue to offer hunts.

- Herd Monitored farms will not be permitted to move live deer out of this zone to other parts of Pennsylvania.

- Herd Certified farms will continue to be permitted to sell deer out of state, with a permit.

- Herd Certified farms who screen their entire herd using live animal rectal lymphoid screening for prion detection through a licensed, accredited veterinarian with non-detected results will be permitted to sell live deer, embryos and semen to other parts of Pennsylvania.

- Deer Farms will be able to buy, sell and transfer live deer if the annual rate of CWD positive animals in their herd remains below five percent. The formula for calculating this rate is included in the quarantine order.

- Deer farms crossing the five percent threshold will be required to segregate females from males and may continue hunting operations as terminal male hunting facilities until the 60-month quarantine period has expired.

- No new premises or business with CWD-susceptible species may be established within this zone.

- Pre-existing establishments with CWD-susceptible species will be grandfathered at the time of publication of this quarantine order, as long as such establishments continuously maintain an active business inventory.

The updated quarantine affects deer farms outside the Core Captive Management Zone as follows:

- Farms will continue to be allowed to sell breeding stock, trophy bucks, embryos and semen bucks to farms within the zone.

- Farms are restricted from buying live deer, embryos and semen from the zone unless purchased from Herd Certified farms that in the past three years screened their entire herd using live animal rectal lymphoid testing for prion and established non-detected results.

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