As this region heads full speed into deer season, it’s wise to be aware of Chronic Wasting Disease within the deer population.

CWD is a prion disease, meaning that this condition attacks the deer’s proteins.

According to the Northcentral Regional Pennsylvania Game Commission, CWD can be dormant for many years before symptoms appear.

Symptoms include weight loss, behavioral changes, excessive salivation, thirst and urination and ataxia (the loss of control of body movement). Infectious CWD prions are spread through saliva, urine and feces. CWD is similar to “mad cow disease” in cows, or scabies in sheep.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 20 counties in Pennsylvania have documented cases of CWD in deer. Toga County, however, is not one of them.

“At this point in time there are no cases of CWD in Tioga County,” said Rob Minnich, Tioga County Game Warden. Propagated deer, such as deer in a petting zoo or deer park, are often the source of CWD.

“In most cases that’s where we detect it first,” said Minnich.

“CWD is spread by direct contact from deer to deer, so if fencing in places like that is an issue, deer can escape and then CWD could spread to the general population. Or if wild deer come up to the fence, it could spread that way.

“If people have bait piles, trying to attract a lot of deer, that could also be a source,” Minnich added. “They could sniff and lick each other and exchange saliva; it’s also spread through urine and defecation and contaminates the ground, which is a food source.”

Hunters should be able to readily spot a deer with end stage CWD — it is visibly ill and would not be considered safe to consume.

According to the Pa. Game Commission, however, symptoms can be dormant for many years. What if a seemingly healthy deer with CWD is consumed?

“As long as the hunter wears personal protection, gloves and such, and as long as the deer is properly prepared for consumption, there is no danger,” says Minnich. “There are no cases of CWD transmitting to humans.”

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