Chronic Wasting Disease discussion continues

By on March 28, 2018

A fatal deer illness, Chronic Wasting Disease, has been gaining a lot of attention from residents of West Cocalico Township.

“I’ve had a couple of people in the last two weeks ask me what’s going on,” said board chairman James Stoner, at the March 20 meeting. “A lot of the questions inflicted on me were, ‘What’s the township doing about it?’”

“They found it in one of the deer farms, rather than in the wild,” said Carolyn Hildebrand, township manager. “A Denver address in West Cocalico.”

Supervisor Jeff Sauder agreed with the origins of the disease in the township.

“This started in one of the pens in this township,” said Sauder.

“This is the only reason why I’m here,” said visitor Abner Petersheim. “I was told there was going to be a game commissioner here tonight. I’m just really curious about the whole situation, like if there are signs on the deer. Can you tell if the deer is infected, what signs to look for, anything?”

“You’re one of a lot of people,” said Stoner.

“You hear about it happening elsewhere, but never in this area before,” said Petersheim.

“Some people say if you shoot a deer during hunting season and you eat that meat and the deer has the disease, your life is in jeopardy,” said Petersheim. “I love watching the fawn grow up. I spread corn and sit on my front porch and they come and eat 20 feet away. I’ve been doing it for 15 years.”

Deer contract the disease through bodily fluids. Wild deer come up to fenced deer and rub noses.

Deer farms here are regulated by the Department of Agriculture (USDA). Their client base is farmers. The general belief is that the USDA doesn’t want to upset the farmers because it is a pro-farming department. Farmers were originally regulated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. When the game commission started putting together regulations to protect the wild deer, rebellion occurred.

“Where I’m not sure is where the line is drawn between the Department of Agriculture and the (Pennsylvania) Game Commission, that’s where I’m confused,” said Stoner.

“It started within the last month,” said Sauder, speaking on the outbreak of the disease. “It was out west and this is the first one in the central east side of the state.”

“It’s unfortunate that it happened, but it did, and now we’ve got to deal with it,” said Stoner.

The supervisors discussed putting up a double fence. One fence pens in the farm deer, and the other runs parallel to it, far enough away so the wild deer can’t touch each other.

“I agree with that, but it’s a little too late,” said Stoner.

But this isn’t the only problem. Now that the disease is hitting locally, there doesn’t seem to be procedures in place to protect live deer from dumped infected roadkill deer.

“We often pick them (road kills) up and take them up to Middle Creek and dump them,” said Tom Showalter, road master. “I knew sooner or later, we’re going to pick one up and wasn’t sure what the policies would be on that.”

“That’s something I didn’t think about,” said Stoner.

Game Commission officer Greg Graham is expected to visit the supervisors’ meeting on April 5 to answer questions from the public.

Michele Walter Fry welcomes comments and questions at

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