Game Commission Offers Free Chronic Wasting Disease Tests for DMA-Harvested Deer

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Hunters within the state’s Disease Management Areas (DMAs) have the opportunity to have their deer tested – free of charge – for chronic wasting disease (CWD), and at the same time help the Game Commission fight this deadly disease.

The Game Commission has installed large metal bins at about two dozen locations for the collection of harvested deer heads within DMA 2 and DMA 3. The bins, which are similar to those used for clothing donations, keep contents secure and are checked and emptied every other day through the deer-hunting seasons.

All deer heads retrieved from the bins that can be tested for CWD, will be tested, and the hunters who submitted them will be notified of the results as soon as they’re available.

This initiative not only benefits the hunter by identifying deer that shouldn’t be consumed, it helps the Game Commission assess the nd monitor progress of the disease and the effectiveness of future management actions.

“CWD is an increasing threat to Pennsylvania’s deer and elk, and our hunting tradition,” said Wayne Laroche, Game Commission Special Assistant for CWD Response. “So far this year, the number of CWD-positive deer detected in DMA 2 has increased at a faster rate; the first free-ranging CWD-positive deer has been found within DMA 3; and three new deer farms have turned up positive within DMA 2.

“Still, prevalence of the disease in Pennsylvania is low,” Laroche said. “There’s still a chance to minimize the disease’s impacts on wild deer. And it’s a win-win scenario for the hunters who bring the heads of their harvested deer to a collection bin. Not only do they help protect wild deer against the disease’s spread, if they shoot a diseased animal, they’ll know about it and can discard the meat.”

Collection bins were placed within both DMA 2 and DMA 3 in early October, and many of the deer heads dropped off there during the statewide archery deer season already have been tested for CWD, with the hunters notified of the results. The bins will remain in use through the late archery and flintlock deer seasons.

The exact locations of all collection sites are available on the Chronic Wasting Disease page at The page can be accessed through a link under “Quick Clicks” on the left side of the homepage.

The permanent bins are white in color and clearly are marked for the collection of deer heads.

The bins are for the collection of deer heads only, and all heads submitted for testing must be lawfully tagged, with the harvest tag legibly completed and attached to the deer’s ear. The information on the tag is needed in order to notify the hunter with test results.

Because the collection bins are secure and emptied regularly, hunters can feel comfortable in leaving the tag attached to the ear – a legal requirement for all deer harvests.

All heads deposited in collection bins should be placed in a plastic bag and tied shut. This will help ensure the tag remains with the head, which is important for test-notification purposes. The head can be bagged before being brought to the bin, or hunters can use the bags provided at bins.

Hunters who harvest antlered deer within a DMA may remove and keep the antlers before depositing the head. The skulls and antlers from heads submitted for testing will not be returned.

While Game Commission staff performs CWD tests on a sample of the deer brought to meat processors statewide, not every deer brought to a processor is tested.

Outside of the DMAs, hunters who want to have their deer tested for CWD must make arrangements with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. There is a fee associated with this testing. More information can be found through a link on the CWD page of the Game Commission’s website.

CWD in Pennsylvania

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) first was detected in Pennsylvania in 2012 at a captive deer farm in Adams County.

In response, the Game Commission established Disease Management Area 1 (DMA 1), a nearly 600-square-mile area in Adams and York counties, in which restrictions regarding the hunting and feeding of deer applied.

CWD was detected among free-ranging deer a few months later in three deer harvested by hunters in Bedford and Blair counties in the 2012 firearms season. The deer were detected through the Game Commission’s ongoing CWD surveillance program.

Those CWD-positive deer resulted in the creation of DMA 2, which initially encompassed nearly 900 square miles in parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, and Huntingdon counties, but since has expanded annually due to the detection of additional free-ranging and captive CWD-positive deer. DMA 2 now encompasses more than 2,845 square miles in parts of Adams, Bedford, Blair Cambria, Clearfield, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon, and Somerset counties.

So far, more than 60 free-ranging CWD-positive deer, and dozens of CWD-positive captive deer, have been detected within DMA 2.

In 2014, CWD was detected at a captive deer farm in Jefferson County, leading to the creation of DMA 3, which encompasses about 350 square miles in parts of Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties. In July 2017, a sick-looking adult buck euthanized a month earlier on state game lands in Clearfield County, within DMA 3, was confirmed as CWD-positive.

Additionally, the Game Commission in 2017 eliminated DMA 1. Through five years of monitoring, which included the testing of 4,800 wild deer within DMA 1, CWD never was found in the wild within DMA 1.

Hunters harvesting deer within DMAs are prohibited from transporting the high-risk parts of those deer (head and backbone) outside the DMA. If those hunters live outside the DMA, and are processing the deer themselves, they must remove and properly dispose of the high-risk parts before taking other parts of the deer home.

Deer meat may be transported outside a DMA so long as the backbone has been removed. Antlers may also be transported from a DMA if the skull plate is free of visible brain material.

Hunters using professional meat processors to process the meat from deer they harvest within a DMA must take the deer to processors within the DMA, or otherwise included on the list of approved processors associated with that DMA. There’s also a list of approved taxidermists associated with each DMA.

The feeding of deer and the use or field possession of urine-based deer lures while hunting also are prohibited within DMAs.

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