Last year, our region became the first Disease Management Area ever created by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
All because the dreaded Chronic Wasting Disease was found here. This thing is a true curse for the deer population of our state. In an effort to curtail the spread of the disease, the Game Commission is offering this year 13,000 antlerless deer licenses for this Management Area in addition to the regular allotment.
For those who complain that you can't find a deer in the woods anymore during season, just prepare for it to get worse. It's a stated effort to chop the population down by about 1 per square mile. It is hoped that this drastic measure will help to curtail the spread of CWD.
Licenses will be available starting July 14. The application for these permits is available on the Game Commission's web site. Each permit costs $6.70, and payments must be made by credit card, check or money order made payable to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Applications for DMA 2 permits will be accepted in two ways - electronically through the Game Commission's Outdoor Shop or by mail. The Outdoor Shop can be accessed at www.theoutdoorshop.state.pa.us. Those wishing to send applications by mail can obtain an application form at the Game Commission's website, the agency's Harrisburg headquarters or any region office.
The application schedule is similar to that for antlerless deer licenses, however, residents and nonresidents can apply on the same dates in all rounds. They are available to all hunters except mentored youth and mentored adults. Non residents may also apply for these licenses.
There was much controversy at the Game Commission's meetings where this subject was hashed out. Exactly how much cooperation from hunters can you expect in a campaign to virtually wipe the deer population out? Will hunters understand the importance of participating in this effort? Isn't CWD going to spread anyway, even if we kill off our deer?
These are all natty subjects and only time will tell how Pennsylvania hunters are going to respond. There will be strict reporting requirements that go along with the purchase of a permit. Some wonder why we have to pay for this license. They are touting that they need the hunter's help in this culling process, yet we have t pay for the "privilege." We are target one for this program because DMA 2 is the lone area of the state where chronic wasting disease has been detected in free-ranging deer.
At the same time, the permit system enables the Game Commission to avoid a reduction in the deer herd in the area surrounding DMA 2 - where CWD has not been detected.
"We hope the creation of this permit will better help to satisfy objectives of addressing the deer population within the DMA and outside it," said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. "Our appointed Game Commissioners continually seek input from the hunters and trappers in their respective regions, and hunters in WMU 4A - a large portion of which is within the DMA - have been requesting an increase in deer numbers.
"While our CWD Management Plan guides us to increase the antlerless deer harvest in areas where CWD has been detected in free-ranging deer, it doesn't mean we have to decrease the deer population throughout an entire WMU, or as in this case, a number of WMUs," Hough said. "The permits allow us to more precisely direct hunting pressure into the area that most needs additional deer harvests."
There are some differences between the application process for a DMA 2 permit and that for an antlerless license.
Only residents and non-residents ages 12 and older with valid general hunting licenses may apply for permits. Participants in Mentored Youth and Mentored Adult hunting programs are ineligible to make application, and the permits cannot be transferred to participants in those programs.
And now the Pennsylvania Game Commission has established a third Disease Management Area in response to chronic wasting disease being detected recently in Jefferson County. Disease Management Area 3 encompasses about 350 square miles in Jefferson and Clearfield counties, and also includes a small sliver of Indiana County.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced early in April that chronic wasting disease was detected at a domestic deer facility in Jefferson County, and both that facility and another associated with the same CWD-positive deer were placed under quarantine. The state Department of Agriculture oversees all domestic deer operations in Pennsylvania, while the Game Commission is responsible for managing and protecting free-ranging wildlife and their habitats.
Pennsylvania's response plan calls for the Game Commission to monitor the prevalence of CWD where it has been detected, and slow the spread of the disease where it exists in the wild. At this time, CWD has not been detected in any free-ranging deer within or near DMA 3.
DMA 3 forms its northern border along Interstate 80. The western and southern boundaries follow state Route 36. And U.S. Routes 219 and 322 form the eastern border. A map depicting DMA 3 is available on the CWD page of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website, www.pgc.state.pa.us .
Since this is a voluntary program, the success of it will depend entirely on area hunters choices. To participate or not participate, that is the question.