Since July 1, 2023, the PA Game Commission has collected nearly 11,000 CWD samples from deer. Hunter harvested samples from last season made up the bulk of those with over 7,000.

CWD was detected in a total of 291 of those hunter-harvested deer. To date, over 440 deer have tested positive for CWD in the 2023-2024 sampling year, up from 426 CWD-positive samples in 2022-23.

“CWD surveillance is crucial to managing the disease,” said agency CWD Section Supervisor Andrea Korman. “CWD is a serious threat to deer and elk. Knowing where the disease is allows us to focus our efforts to keep more deer from becoming infected.”

One of those efforts is using CWD Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) units to focus harvest and surveillance. For 2023-24, there were 10 specific CWD DMAP units across the state. Hunters could purchase up to two additional antlerless permits to be used within these CWD DMAP areas. Increased surveillance and hunting pressure in these CWD DMAP Units is essential to keeping the healthy deer from being exposed to CWD.

In addition to CWD DMAP units, the Game Commission selected three areas last fall as Containment Zones (CZs). CZs are small areas – about a 1-mile radius, or the average size of a deer’s home range – around the location of a high priority CWD-positive deer.

Landowners and hunters within these smaller CZs are offered additional opportunities to harvest deer in an effort to remove those that may have come into contact with the infected deer. These opportunities include both special regulations and extended hunting seasons. The Game Commission continued to work with these landowners after the hunting seasons to conduct additional removals surrounding the initial CWD detection.

“The results of this year’s efforts around recent detections were encouraging,” said Korman. “Landowners and hunters were supportive and eager to help protect deer in their area. This increased sampling close to the detections found no new CWD-positive animals.”

As with previous years, most of the deer that tested positive for CWD in the 2023-24 hunting season came from DMA 2, located in southcentral Pennsylvania, and were concentrated in the Established Area (EA) that covers portions of Bedford, Blair, Franklin, Fulton, and Huntingdon counties. This area, where CWD is considered to be established within the deer population, has produced nearly 90% of Pennsylvania’s CWD-positives since the disease first was detected here in 2012.

This is also where a CWD research study is taking place, specifically in Bedford and Fulton counties. This was the second year of the study and in total, crews captured and collared 95 deer. This multi-year project is conducted in cooperation with the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State University and the Wildlife Futures Program at Penn Vet.

“Based on the number of CWD-positive animals we continue to detect in this area, it’s clear that CWD is a persistent problem and will require long-term management,” Korman said.

“People in Pennsylvania believe that responding to wildlife disease is one of the Game Commission’s most important roles. Therefore, the Game Commission must act to address CWD for the benefit of both the resource and the public.”