Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has issued an “emergency order” to impose additional movement and testing restrictions on deer breeding facilities that are affiliated with six deer breeding facilities where Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been positively detected. Existing rules already restrict the movement of deer from 264 sites in 95 counties that are directly linked to these CWD-positive facilities, but further measures are necessary given the gravity of this situation.
TPWD and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) are addressing risks and improving management strategies to protect big game resources from CWD in captive or free-ranging cervid populations. Both agencies recognize the need for full cooperation and partnership among government agencies, deer breeders, private landowners, hunters, conservation organizations and the general public in managing CWD in Texas.
“This is a terribly unfortunate development that we are committed to addressing as proactively, comprehensively, and expeditiously as possible,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “The health of our state’s free-ranging and captive deer herds, as well as affiliated hunting, wildlife, and rural based economies, are vitally important to Texas hunters, communities, and landowners. As such, our primary objectives are to enhance testing at sites that received deer from affected facilities and avoid the unintentional release of CWD-positive deer. Along with our partners at TAHC, we will continue to exercise great diligence and urgency with this ongoing investigation.”
Officials have taken action to secure all cervids at the CWD-positive facilities with plans to conduct additional investigations for CWD. In addition, those breeding facilities that received deer or shipped deer to those facilities during the last five years are under movement restrictions and cannot move or release cervids until cleared by a herd plan. The additional measures included in this emergency order include enhanced testing requirements for facilities with close epidemiological ties to the CWD-positive facilities and antemortem testing of deer from all movement qualified deer breeding facilities prior to transfer to a release site. These requirements are necessary to further minimize risk of CWD spreading into Texas’ free-ranging white-tailed deer herd, and to protect the captive deer breeding industry.
“The TAHC is committed to working with TPWD and affected stakeholders and landowners to address this latest development in Texas’ CWD history,” said Dr. Andy Schwartz, TAHC Executive Director and State Veterinarian. “The TAHC will continue to use its veterinary and epidemiological expertise to facilitate and contribute to the state’s CWD herd management and surveillance strategies.”
“The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission and TPWD are deeply concerned about the gravity and the urgency of the CWD challenges now confronting us,” said Arch H. “Beaver” Aplin, III Chairman TPW Commission. “Please also know that the engagement and input from everyone interested in deer management will be important as we work together along with TAHC to try and arrest the spread of this insidious disease.”
“I am proud of the partnership between TAHC and TPWD and the dedication of the two agencies to address Chronic Wasting Disease in this state,” said Coleman Locke, TAHC Chairman. “Because of this collaboration, Texas has led the nation in CWD management techniques and will continue to improve the overall understanding of the disease.”
As the state veterinary diagnostic laboratory, the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL), uses surveillance testing to help wildlife producers and wildlife/animal health agencies to ensure the health of species susceptible to CWD. With the expected increase in CWD testing, TVMDL, a state agency within the Texas A&M System, has committed additional resources to ramp up testing capacity.
“Working with TPWD, the Texas A&M System will use all of its resources to perform these tests quickly and efficiently,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp.
CWD was first recognized in the United States in 1967 and has since been documented in captive and/or free-ranging deer in 26 states and three Canadian provinces.
In Texas, the disease was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border and has since been detected in 228 captive or free-ranging cervids, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer and elk in 13 Texas counties. For more information on previous detections visit the CWD page on the TPWD website.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease found in certain cervids, including deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family. CWD is a slow and progressive disease. Due to a long incubation, cervids infected with CWD may not produce any visible signs for a number of years after becoming infected. As the disease progresses, animals with CWD show changes in behavior and appearance. Clinical signs may include, progressive weight loss, stumbling or tremors with a lack of coordination, excessive thirst, salivation or urination, loss of appetite, teeth grinding, abnormal head posture, and/or drooping ears.
To date there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals.