- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP)| Gunfire could ring out again at Maryland’s Civil War battlefields under National Park Service proposals for detecting and controlling chronic wasting disease, a contagious illness fatal to white-tailed deer.

The agency this week announced public meetings Dec. 3 at the Antietam National Battlefield near Sharpsburg and Dec. 4 at Monocacy National Battlefield near Frederick to receive public comments on alternatives for combating the disease, which has been found in neighboring West Virginia.

Three of the four alternatives could involve killing scores of healthy-appearing deer in order to detect the disease. One includes an option to destroy hundreds of apparently healthy deer if the disease is found on or near a battlefield.

The final plan, which could be announced next year, will serve as a template for other Park Service units in the eastern United States. The brain disease has been found in deer and elk in 14 states. There is no evidence that it poses a risk to humans or domestic animals.

A prohibition on hunting at the battlefields has resulted in deer population densities that are three to four times higher than in surrounding areas, according to a Park Service document. The high numbers “represent a risk factor for the introduction and amplification of [the disease] in battlefield deer,” the agency said.

Three of the Park Service alternatives would authorize the killing of scores of deer — at least 32 to 110 per year at Antietam and 36 to 83 per year at Monocacy — just for disease detection.

If chronic-wasting disease were found, the agency could continue killing deer at the same rate for monitoring purposes under two alternatives. One alternative includes an option for a one-time population reduction likely targeting 212 to 241 deer at Antietam and 252 to 294 deer at Monocacy.

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