The bad news continues to mount, as the scourge of chronic wasting disease has reached the point where it now threatens Pennsylvania’s elk herd.

The disease lethal to white-tailed deer has turned up in a free-ranging buck shot by a wildlife conservation officer in Bell Township, Clearfield County in early June. The deer shot on state game lands and within Disease Management Area 3, was showing signs of disease.

The latest CWD-positive raises concern because of its proximity to Pennsylvania’s elk range, which abuts DMA 3. More than 100 elk are tested for CWD each year and, thus far, the disease has not been detected among the state’s elk.

“It’s important our response is as effective and efficient as possible to attempt to curtail this disease before it becomes well-established in an area where it not only is a threat to our deer, but also our elk,” Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife-management director Wayne Laroche said.

Elk are good for the local economy, generating a reported $70 million in nature-based tourism within the Keystone State’s elk region. Deer hunting in Pennsylvania accounts for about $1.6 billion.

DMA 3 was established in 2014 after CWD was found in two captive deer in Jefferson County. The Game Commission says it has no plans to expand DMA 3, since the latest discovery was near the area’s center.

But surveillance is being stepped up. Deer Management Assistance Program permits will be issued within DMA 3. Each hunter can purchase up to two of the 2,800 DMAP permits anywhere hunting licenses are sold by requesting permits for Unit 3045. These DMAP permits can be used to take antlerless deer on public and private lands within DMA 3 during any established deer season. Hunters must acquire permission from private landowners prior to hunting.

The commission may increase sampling of harvested deer to obtain more-precise harvest-location information.

The commission also plans to use sharpshooters in a small, focused area of DMA 3 where the CWD-positive deer was found, in hopes of stopping the disease before it has a chance to spread. The operation would be carried out by Department of Agriculture shooters in the winter, after the deer seasons, and would target hundreds of deer. All deer will be tested for CWD. Venison from those not positive will be donated.

CWD also exists among wild deer in the area of southcentral Pennsylvania defined as Disease Management Area 2 (parts of Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties). Twenty-five free-ranging deer tested positive there for CWD in 2016. An additional four CWD-positive deer have been detected since, raising to 51 the total of CWD-positives detected within the DMA 2 since 2012.

What had been DMA 1, established in eastern Adams County when the disease was first discovered in Pennsylvania in a captive deer near New Oxford in 2012, was recently dissolved because there hasn’t since been any additional positive test results.

Summit on wild trout

Wild trout will be food for thought in Centre County the last Saturday in August.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will hold its first meeting to discuss wild trout for a public wild trout summit at its regional office, Aug. 26 beginning at 9:30 a.m.

Commission Bureau of Fisheries Director Andy Shiels said the summit will “bring agency, academic and Trout Unlimited experts together to present and discuss the past, present and future of Pennsylvania’s wild trout resources.”

Speakers will present information on the history of wild trout management in the Commonwealth, the Unassessed Wild Trout Waters Initiative, special regulations for wild trout, and how environmental permit review affects wild trout protection.

It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the potential impacts of climate change, the commissions’s wild trout stream habitat improvement priorities, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wild Trout Management Plan, and Implications of Genetics on Wild Trout Management.

New information on several Penn State University trout radio-tracking studies will also be provided.

A panel discussion and question-and-answer session will end the day. A tentative agenda can be found on the commission website, www.fishandboat.com. The summit is open to the public, but registration is required. Attendees may register online.

The commission’s newly renovated Centre Region Office Building is at 595 East Rolling Ridge Drive in Bellefonte. It can be easily reached via Interstate 99 by taking the Bellefonte/Route 150 North exit.

Registration will begin at 9:30 a.m. The program will start at 10:15 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m.

Right bill for hunting & fishing

There is a bill in the state Senate to amend the state constitution and guarantee us the right to “hunt, fish and harvest game.”

Twenty-one other states have already amended their constitutions.

Sen. Charles T. McIlhinney Jr., a Bucks County Republican, sponsored the measure in Harrisburg.

As hunting and fishing continue to come under attack, formally establishing those pleasures as rights could be the suit of armor they need.

The amendment would go to the voters if it should pass the state House and Senate on two consecutive legislative sessions. But the bill has been stalled in the Game and Fisheries Committee since Sen. McIlhinney introduced it in late May.

Nothing to see here

This reporter appreciates the multitude of emails, notes of encouragement, and folks who might have shown up at the covered bridge at Messiah College last Sunday to see if “Plank Man” would again do the Dead Man’s Float for three hours.

Sometimes, change is good.

The put-in spot at Messiah was closed because sports camps at the college needed the parking lot space, so we had to start and stop at different locations.

As it turned out, I didn’t spend the afternoon on the Yellow Breeches in the prone position and looking at the sky for the third year in a row. I had a tube that held air from our McCormick Road put-in and for three hours to the Lower Allen Community Park take out.

How nice it was to enjoy an uneventful ride, a pleasant afternoon and our annual Brotherhood of the Breeches.

Contact B.J. Small at bjsmall@comcast.net or follow him on Twitter @Arrows2010.

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