Pennsylvania is sharing its misery in one way while keeping pace with much of the rest of the country in another.
First, the troubling news.
Ohio Department of Agriculture officials announced this past week that chronic wasting disease has shown up in the Buckeye State for the first time. Test results confirmed one buck from a captive deer herd at World Class Whitetails near Millersburg northeast of Columbus and about 100 air miles west of Pittsburgh, had the disease.
The facility has “a known connection to a captive deer operation in Pennsylvania that tested positive for CWD earlier this year,” according to the Ohio agriculture department.
That “captive deer operation” would be one of the two deer farms in Jefferson County that were found to hold sick deer.
Ohio officials weren’t quick to share any of that information.
The agriculture department placed World Class Whitetails and 42 other deer farms under quarantine April 24 after it was determined that they had received “approximately 125 deer from operations in Pennsylvania that later tested positive for CWD.” It didn’t announce that for six months, however, until Thursday, after the first CWD-positive deer was confirmed.
In the meantime, Ohio’s quarantine was lifted on the 22 facilities that allowed all of their deer to be killed and tested, with no positive cases identified. The remaining 21 facilities — five of them hunting preserves — that still have deer will remain under quarantine until “the department is satisfied that the threat of disease transference has passed,” agriculture officials said.
Ohio’s Division of Natural Resources said it also will increase sampling — of hunter-killed deer as well as roadkills and those that appear sick — in a six-mile radius around World Class Whitetails and “near the other captive operations that are under quarantine.”
As for how Pennsylvania is holding its own, Responsive Management, a survey firm specializing in outdoors issues, recently polled all 50 state fish and wildlife agencies to monitor participation in hunting. The goal was to look at trends over the last two years and predict what might happen in the next two.
One finding was hunting participation has leveled off. Gains were seen in 28 states between 2006-11, according to a survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But just 12 states — eight in the South — experienced that between 2012-14.
Ten states saw declines in hunting over the last two years. The other 28, including Pennsylvania, reported numbers remained steady.
A peek into the future reveals a mixed bag of expectations.
Ten states — widespread geographically from Washington to Texas to Ohio to Maine — expect hunter numbers to grow in the next two years, Responsive Management said. Eight others, including Michigan, the state most often compared to Pennsylvania in terms of its hunting traditions; Illinois, a big big-deer state; and California expect their numbers to decline.
Responsive Management said the remaining 32 states, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and New York, predict hunter numbers will remain about the same over the next two years.