Chronic wasting disease confirmed in Culpeper County, Va

Chronic wasting disease, an incurable neurological disease found in deer, elk and moose in North America, has infected deer in Virginia for more than nine years. For the first time, however, the disease has been found in Culpeper County, more than 40 miles from the nearest known positive deer. Because the disease is spreading, state gaming officials will be working this summer to determine the actions they’ll take moving forward. These could include regulation changes, enhanced surveillance, or other methods that may help to stop the spread of the disease. In the state of Virginia, a total of 68 deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease since 2009.

The endangered Florida panther is being shot more than originally thought

The Florida panther is Florida’s state animal and is protected under federal law as an endangered species– but that hasn’t stopped people from shooting them. Officials at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say that 36 Florida panthers have been shot by people since 1978, and 13 of them were killed. Those illegal kills represent an important mortality factor, biologists say. Of the 13 illegally killed panthers, officials have successfully closed only four of the cases. A quarter of the panthers that have been shot were killed during hunting season. This leads officials to believe that hunters who intended to shoot deer, turkey or hogs killed the panthers, perhaps accidentally. About eight percent of the shootings are considered “suspected intentional kills.” The Florida panther population reached an all-time low in 1995, when only 30 known panthers existed in the wild. The population has since rebounded. It is believed about 200 panthers are now living in Florida.

Pennsylvania Governor hikes the closed Glen Onoko Falls trail to bring attention to his infrastructure plan

Governor Tom Wolf hiked the beloved and recently closed Glen Onoko Falls trail this week to make the case for his $4.5 billion infrastructure plan. Without approval of his plan the Glen Onoko Falls trail, and others like it, will remain permanently closed, officials say. The Glen Onoko trail cannot reopen without at least $4.5 million to refurbish the eroded trail where 15 people have died and many others have been injured.

Governor Wolf is pushing for a severance tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production to finance capital projects like the one needed to reopen the Glen Onoko Falls trail. Wolf has attempted to tax shale drillers every year since he has been in office, but the gas industry has pushed back and the GOP-controlled Legislature has continually rejected the idea.