Another CWD Deer in Pennsylvania

white_tailed_deer_buckChronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was first detected in Pennsylvania in 2012 at a captive facility in Adams County. Subsequently, three free-ranging deer harvested by hunters during the 2012 season tested positive for CWD. Now, a Pennsylvania Game Commission press release reports, a white-tailed deer that was killed by a vehicle this fall has tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The latest case is in the same county as one of the previous wild deer cases. Apparently, that’s the first report of CWD in Pennsylvania in 2013 (even though the press release came out in 2014, which makes things a little confusing).

Read the Pennsylvania Game Commission press release, here.
Read a brief article in, a Gannett publication, here.

Photo: A (very) healthy deer. Joe Kosack/Pennsylvania Game Commission

Vultures As Pollution Sentinels

Turkey_VultureResearchers from the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Pennsylvania have been studying vultures throughout the New World to see if they are effective sentinels for environmental pollutants, such as lead.

The theory, says an Associated Press article that ran in the Havasu News (AZ), is with their ability to eat and digest biological toxins, vultures may be accumulating man-made toxins as well. Testing them for toxins may reveal hot spots that can then be investigated.

A Hawk Mountain Sanctuary blog reveals that they have been at this for ten years. The big news today is that they have expanded the study in to Arizona. The hope is that information from the tough vultures will provide more information on the lead poisoning that is killing the already federally endangered California condors.

Read the Associated Press article here.
Read the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary “Vulture Chronicles” blog here.

Photo: Turkey vulture, by Lee Karney, courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service

Penn State Develops CWD Model

white_tailed_deer_buckEight years ago, research done by Penn State University, the Pennsylvania Wildlife Commission, and the US Geological Survey found in a study of white-tailed deer, that 70 percent of yearling males will disperse, and the average dispersal is six to seven miles. Depending on the amount of forest on the landscape, the researcher says, those yearling males may go just a mile or as far as 30 miles.

Now, another team of Penn State researchers are using that dispersal data to model the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.

So far, the conclusions are that in parts of the state with less forest, the Game Commission may have to consider disease-management areas that are larger. It also has implications on sampling efforts to try to get a handle on the prevalence of the disease.

Read the Penn State University press release here.

Photo: Joe Kosack/Pennsylvania Game Commission

CWD Taxidermy Confusion in Penn.

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was found in a captive deer in Pennsylvania three weeks ago. A quarantine was put in place so that the bones and brains of deer killed near where the disease was found cannot be taken out of the area in the hope of preventing the spread of the prion-based disease.

This is causing confusion among local hunters, taxidermists and butchers who handle deer meat, an article in the Hanover Evening Sun reports.

One butcher outside of the quarantine area said that he hoped that he would at least have access to venison scraps to make bologna and jerky. He should have access to much more than that. Another expressed willingness to travel inside the quarantine to butcher animals at people’s homes.

Of course, these questions and confusions raise questions of their own, especially since there is no easy way to neutralize a prion.

Read the whole story in The Evening Sun, here.

Deer Health

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced the first case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in deer there last week. As you may guess from the state department issuing the news, CWD was found in captive deer.

CWD had been found in New York, which borders Pennsylvania, several years ago and is believed to be eradicated there. But there have been more recent incidents in West Virginia and Maryland, which also border the state.

(My rough measurements show the Pennsylvania case as being about 40 miles from where CWD was found in Maryland and West Virginia.)

Read the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture press release here. (It’s a PDF).
Read an article in the Lehigh Valley Morning Call, here.

In other deer health news, Louisiana State Wildlife Division chief Kenny Ribbeck told the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission last week that Hurricane Isaac killed up to 90 percent of the deer fawns in the Maurepas Basin, according to an Associated Press article that you can read in The Oregonian. Deer hunting in the region has been adjusted as a result.

And in the category of “when is no news actually news” the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre notes in its blog that epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) came awfully close to Canada this year. The midge that spreads EHD is not found in Canada, it says, but the disease may move north with the midge because of climate change. It also notes that because the disease has never struck there, the outbreak may be severe.

Read the Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre blog post, here.

Photo: Joe Kosack/Pennsylvania Game Commission

Penn. Abandons Bat Petition

little brown bat with white nose syndrome on cave wallThe article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette seemed a little harsh, claiming that the Pennsylvania Game Commission caved to industry pressure when it abandoned its petition to list bat species that had been affected by white nose syndrome. A tiny bit of digging turned up the PGC press release, which pretty much admits to just that:

“Through this process, we heard from various wildlife organizations and representatives from the timber, oil, coal and gas industries, as well as legislators.  At the present time, it is clear that more discussion, research and coordination need to be done on WNS and the other outside factors that are impacting our bat populations, as well as how we can craft solutions that protect bats without threatening the industries that employ thousands of Pennsylvanians.”

Read the PGC press release here.
Read the article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.
Read a press release from the Center for BioDiversity here.

Photo: little brown bat with white nose syndrome, courtesy of Missouri Dept. of Conservation

Fashion and Art Shows for Bats

Bats in Vermont are not wearing haute couture gowns, and they are not perusing fine art in Philly, but they are still benefiting from a fashion show and an art show in those locations.

In Vermont, the state Fish and Wildlife Department is the beneficiary of a bat-themed fashion show featuring six local designers. Scott Darling, Vermont’s bat biologist, will be on hand to explain the impact of white nose syndrome on the state’s bats.

Read this Associated Press article in the Bennington Banner. You have to scroll to the bottom of a bunch of jumbled-together stories.

In Philadelphia, a show of bat-themed art is benefiting Bat Conservation International. The show, called “Empty Night Skies,” has already raised thousands of dollars for the organization, according to Philadelphia Weekly, and runs through June 13.

Read the article in Philadelphia Weekly for the details, but be prepared to hold your nose through the first few paragraphs. (Does this guy even know any kids? Today’s generation was brought up with Stellaluna, and in general, thinks bats are cool even — or especially — if they think bats are creepy.)

Photo: Our own bat art, made from a photo of a gray bat from the US Fish and Wildlife Service

“A ray of hope” on WNS in bats

Scott Darling

In Vermont, residents have reported seeing colonies of little brown bats. Over the last five years most of the state’s little brown bats had been wiped out by white nose syndrome (WNS). In Pennsylvania, an abandoned mine appears to have 2,000 healthy bats.

Read the Associated Press article here. (It’s the better story.)
Read the Washington Post article here.

More good news: The Center for Biodiversity reports that Congress has directed that $4 million from the endangered species recovery fund go towards white nose syndrome research. But Congress has allocated for WNS before, and then reneged. It will be truly good news when research actually gets funded.
The Center for Biodiversity press release.

Photo: Scott Darling, Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, in the early days of the WNS crisis. Photo property of State Wildlife Research News. (Permission required for reuse.)

Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease in Penn.

Last week epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) was found in white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania. The diagnosed deer were from Northampton County, in eastern Pennsylvania. The county is across the Delaware River from New Jersey, which is also reporting cases of EHD.

One captive deer in Erie County, in the northwestern corner of the state, has also died of EHD, according to a Pennsylvania Game Commission press release.

Read a story from the Wayne Independent here.

The always informative moderator’s comments from the ProMED listserv can be found here. (Scroll down to the end to find the comments in square brackets.) It contains background info on EHD from Iowa State University.

The important background information is that EHD is endemic to North America. The disease can infect most ruminants, but it it most common in white-tailed deer. A mild form of the disease is found in the southeastern U.S., where few deer die from the disease. Periodic outbreaks in the Midwest and Northeast can range from a small outbreak with few deaths to something more widespread. The severity of the outbreak depends on several things, including the weather (wet weather favors breeding midges), how many of the biting  midges are around, and herd immunity.

Read the details in the Iowa State University fact sheet.

Photo: A healthy white-tailed deer. Credit: Ryan Hagerty, courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

Urban Bear Studies

Let’s make it a two-fer on black bears.

This spring, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources began a two-year study of urban bears in three cities. The West Virginia Gazette-Mail has the details. The West Virginia effort began last year and is part of a region-wide effort. Urban bears are also being studied in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

More details about the Pennsylvania study are available here:
Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader
Some results of last year’s study in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (second half of article)
The Game Commission brochure about the study (downloads a 2-page PDF).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

I couldn’t find anything specifically about the New Jersey portion of this study. As previously reported here, New York State will be doing work on black bears in developing areas.

There have been many urban/nuisance black bear stories in the news this week. Mostly, it’s been “black bear spotted…” on golf course, in neighborhood, etc. This attack in New Hampshire was the most serious. (From the North Andover Eagle-Tribune). Read the NH Fish and Game press release.