Thursday, March 29, 2018

Game Commission: Chronic Wasting Disease In Deer An Ecological Disaster Unfolding Before Our Eyes

Game Commission Executive Director Brian Burhans told the House Game and Fisheries Committee Wednesday the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer “is an ecological disaster unfolding before our eyes” that threatens the state’s $1.6 billion industry tied to hunting and our hunting heritage.
Burhans pointed to a new captive deer testing positive for CWD in Lancaster County requiring the agency to establish a new Disease Management Area in parts of Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks counties as the latest steps take by the Commission to deal with this issue.
“It will take time to assess what, if any, biological consequences this deer farm poses to the state whitetail population, and deer hunters.  At the very least, local hunters will be inconvenienced for years to come.
He noted deer processors and taxidermists will be affected by CWD as movement of high-risk deer parts are prohibited from the disease management area.
The Game Commission is also struggling to deal with financial issues.
Burhans noted law-enforcement contacts are down by more than 17,000 from the previous year because 20 percent of the agency’s officer districts are now vacant.  A projected 40 percent of the districts will be vacant before a new class of game wardens can start next spring.
Burhans outlined other challenges to hunting and wildlife.
He noted wildlife biologist Lisa Williams was the first scientist in North American to affirm that WNV was playing a role in ruffed grouse population declines Now, Williams and her research colleagues are launching a project to evaluate where habitat improvements will be most successful in light of WNV infections.
White nose syndrome has eliminated 99 percent of some species of cave bats. And invasive plant species continue to damage quality wildlife habitats across the state.
“Some of these threats continue to grow.  Others smother wildlife populations. That Pennsylvania has more than 100 species of greatest conservation need speaks volumes about the tough times wildlife endures.
“Remember, for every bald eagle success story, there are a doze others about struggling species, such as the cerulean warbler, the northern flying squirrel and the American Bittern.
“Pennsylvanians, however, should know our employees, volunteers, and our partners are committed to reversing these trends.  It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. But know that we won’t throw in the towel.
“Wildlife is too important to too many Pennsylvanians.”
Click Here for a copy of Burhans written testimony.  Click Here for a copy of the Commission’s 2017 Annual Report and watch an accompanying video which summarizes accomplishments and challenges in the past year.
Click Here to watch a video of the hearing (when posted).
Visit the Game Commission’s Chronic Wasting Disease webpage for more information on this disease.
Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by sending email to:  Rep. Bryan Barbin (D-Cambria) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by sending email to:
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