Deer in Pennsylvania

Wildlife Futures Program

A Wildlife Health Program with the Pennsylvania Game Commission

At no time in history has disease posed more problems for wildlife and its conservation. 

  • White-Nose Syndrome has killed 99 percent of most cave-bat species.
  • Chronic Wasting Disease continues to spread to new parts of Pennsylvania, infecting and killing deer and threatening hunting tradition.
  • West Nile virus has left Pennsylvania’s state bird, the ruffed grouse, with an uncertain future.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) and Penn Vet
have formed a partnership to address those problems head-on.

Wildlife Futures logotype

About the Wildlife Futures Program

The Wildlife Futures Program, formerly known as the Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program, is a science-based, wildlife health program that serves to increase disease surveillance, management, and research to better protect wildlife across the Commonwealth.

For hunters who submit samples from deer they harvest for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing, the partnership will provide much faster turnaround for test results – about 10 to 21 days – as well as the ability to track test results online.

The Wildlife Futures Program will dedicate 12 employees, one of them working full-time out of the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, to addressing wildlife diseases. Benefits include:

  • The ability to better define wildlife diseases, their impacts, and how we can manage them
  • Freeing up agency biologists to spend more time focusing on managing wildlife populations
  • The coordination of disease responses across agencies, our hunting community, and the general public

Download our Wildlife Futures Program Overview (PDF).

Our Goals

  • Establish Research and Surveillance Programs

    Establish state-wide, innovative research and surveillance programs to identify diseases with the potential to infect wildlife, livestock, poultry, companion animals, and humans.

  • Develop a Wildlife Health Information System

    Develop and maintain a comprehensive wildlife health information system including a database of wildlife health cases, mapping, and data analysis to integrate real-time, state-wide disease response.

  • Facilitate Cross-Agency Communication

    Facilitate cross-agency communication of existing and emerging wildlife disease, translate applied-research for science and technical publication, and build an external communications platform to ensure that timely information is available to the public.

  • Enhance Capacity through Training

    Enhance technical and staff capacity through a comprehensive training and development program on disease surveillance, management, and animal health systems.

Our Team

Based out of Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the Wildlife Futures Program is led by ecologist Dr. Julie Ellis, and veterinarian and toxicologist Dr. Lisa Murphy.

Dr. Julie Ellis, Penn VetJulie Ellis, PhD

“The Wildlife Futures Program establishes a sustainable infrastructure for collaboration, and really represents a paradigm shift in managing wildlife disease. Not only are we charting a novel and comprehensive program that protects Pennsylvania wildlife, but ultimately, we are protecting the health of Pennsylvania’s nearly 13 million residents from the serious impacts of wildlife disease. Land use in Pennsylvania is changing, and wildlife species are coming into closer contact with humans. We need to be prepared for these broader consequences on both animal and human health.”

Learn more about Dr. Ellis...

Dr. Lisa Murphy, Penn VetLisa Murphy, VMD

“As the state’s only veterinary school, Penn Vet has a depth of experience investigating disease in veterinary medicine. Through our affiliation with the Pennsylvania Diagnostic Laboratory System (PADLS), and the ongoing diagnostic services we provide to the state’s poultry industry, we have the capacity and wildlife health expertise to support this exciting new partnership with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.”

Learn more about Dr. Murphy...