According to Sam Dunkle, former Pennsylvania Game Commissioner and noted conservationist, there are three influences on how most people form their opinions about Chronic Wasting Disease: political, sociological and scientific.

He spoke his opinions at the recent Landowner’s Appreciation Banquet held at Riggles Gap Sportsmen’s Club.

Politicians look largely at what policies will help them get, and keep, their jobs. Socialization is the influences of the culture and how they shape every individual’s beliefs and opinions. Science tries to find the facts, the truth about whatever they are studying.

Right now, in the huge debate about CWD, it seems that opinions are holding the largest share of “authority” on the subject. Science has informed us already that CWD is spreading, it cannot be cured, and to allow the deer herd to go on propagating unchecked is to help the spread of CWD.

But what most hunters hear is that to reduce the deer herd is, at present, the best way to stop the spread of this disease among the deer herd. Even so, to carry out a program for eliminating a number of deer from the herd is not to be even considered. Why? “We don’t want to go out in deer season and not see a lot of deer” is what is most often stated.


When you have a dense deer herd, the disease spreads so to contain the spread of this pestilence, the deer herd numbers should be reduced.

After Dunkle spoke, Mike College, game warden for Southwest Pennsylvania spoke.

“It takes 18 to 24 months for an infected deer to show symptoms,” College said. “You cannot always tell by looks whether a deer is infected or not. Rabies, arrow or bullet wounds even Mad Cow Disease all mimic the symptoms of CWD.

“The disease is spread animal to animal by touching, and the feces and urine of deer can remain around for several years. Deer catch the disease from bait sites of corn as well. For this reason, it is illegal to artificially feed deer.

“Some studies have shown that contamination from a CWD infected deer may be toxic to humans,” College reported. ”

And at a wild-game dinner, what was served was a CWD-infected deer, and so in the 20 years following that dinner, every person who ate any of that venison was followed and not one person had been negatively affected.

Nevertheless, the Game Commission suggests that humans not eat the meat of an infected deer until absolute results are known.

“The ugly fact is that, so far, the only thing that has proved to slow the spread of CWD is to cull the herds. Fewer deer, less chance of further contamination. One thing is for sure: if CWD spreads to cows, the farmers will kill every deer they ever see,” College said.

We know that CWD has spread into Pennsylvania’s Elk herd and what a travesty it will be if the elk in our state are wiped out.

It seems a researcher of some sort held out hope that the disease is caused by bacteria, but the Game Commission believes there is little real evidence to support that.

So the hunters and people of Pennsylvania, especially in this area, which is the heart of CWD contamination, are going to have to face an ugly, unpleasant, unpalatable truth: deer are going to have to be culled to slow down the progress of this awful affliction.

As for me, I have always and will always be on the research and scientific studies results side.

I’m coming up on 66 years of hunting, and I’ve seen quite a number of program changes suggested: from the first doe hunting back in the 1960s, to abolishing turkey game farms and adopting the trap-and-transfer method of bringing wild turkeys back to the state, to the “cub law,” which suggested we could shoot cubs (which are usually about 100 pounds or so by fall) instead of having to check teeth after a bear was dead, to the introduction of spring gobbler hunting, which most hunters declared a bad idea.

In all of those issues, the opinions — to me — were wrong, always wrong. So I go with good scientific research and information.