CWD in Texas Panhandle Mule Deer: Meetings Scheduled



Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was found in a hunter-harvested mule deer last year in the Texas Panhandle. The next step is monitoring to determine the spread within the region. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), in partnership with Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has set two informational meetings to help educate landowners, hunters and the public in the Texas Panhandle about CWD management.

Meetings on CWD Regulations

CWD meetings are open to the public and will be held in:


  • Dalhart – Wednesday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m., Dallam County Courthouse, District Courtroom, 501 Denver Ave.
  • Amarillo – Thursday, Sept. 29, 7 p.m., Amarillo Public Library (Downtown Branch), 413 E 4th Ave.

During the meetings, aspects of new CWD regulations will be thoroughly explained including the establishment of CWD zones, mandatory sampling of hunter-harvested deer in the CWD zones and restriction of permitted deer movements to and from the CWD zones.

CWD Rules in Texas Panhandle

New rules banning importation of certain deer and elk carcass parts from states where the disease has been detected, as well as the movement of the same carcass parts from CWD zones within Texas, will also be covered.

The new rules developed by TPWD and TAHC are part of the state’s comprehensive CWD management plan to determine the prevalence and geographic extent of the disease and to contain the disease to the areas where it is known to exist.

For more information about CWD, CWD management and new CWD regulations.



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CWD Found in Mule Deer in Texas Panhandle

CWD in Texas… Again

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been found in the Texas Panhandle. It seemed only a matter of time since the always-fatal deer disease had been documented to the west, just across the Texas-New Mexico border. The deer that tested positive for CWD was a free-ranging mule deer buck, harvested in Hartley County, during the fall hunting season.

Officials with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) received confirmation today from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL) in Ames, Iowa.


Hartley County is located in the Texas Panhandle immediately to the south of Dalhart and borders New Mexico. TPWD and TAHC are contemplating a multi-tiered risk management response similar to the approach taken in 2012, when CWD was first discovered in Texas in a free-ranging mule deer in the Hueco Mountains along the New Mexico border.

CWD in Texas Mule Deer

The latest discovery marks the eighth mule deer to test positive for CWD in Texas. The other seven animals, all within the Hueco Mountains area, indicate a disease prevalence of 10–15 percent within that population.

State officials are currently compiling all the data necessary to finalize the specific management response for this new CWD positive area, and will engage stakeholders to ensure that this recent discovery and scenario helps form the dialogue and recommendations for the future.

CWD was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado. The disease has been documented in captive and/or free-ranging deer and elk in 23 states and 2 Canadian provinces. In Texas, CWD has also been documented in six white-tailed deer in Medina and Lavaca counties.

CWD Kills Deer

CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness.

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.

Texas Mule Deer Hunting Season Looks Favorable

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is reporting that prospects are good for the upcoming mule deer hunting season, which starts on Saturday, Nov. 21 in the Texas Panhandle and Nov. 27 in the Trans Pecos. TPWD biologists say above average habitat conditions have bolstered body weights and antler growth this year.

In addition, agency is asking hunters and landowners to submit harvested mule deer for sampling as part of enhanced, statewide monitoring efforts for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The deer disease is always fatal in deer and elk. It was found in West Texas a few years ago and TPWD continues to monitor the spread of the disease.

Mule Deer Hunting in West Texas

Panhandle Mule Deer


Although not required in the Panhandle, mule deer harvested in far West Texas are required to be submitted for testing under TPWD’s Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan protocols. The management plan includes mandatory check stations for susceptible species like elk and mule deer taken inside the CWD Containment Zone, which covers portions of Hudspeth, Culberson, and El Paso counties. More information on the Texas CWD zones map.

The Texas Animal Health Commission and TPWD will also use the CWD check stations in a cooperative effort to monitor for bovine tuberculosis (TB) in Texas. The tissue samples used for this effort would be the same samples currently collected as part of the ongoing CWD monitoring effort.

Mule Deer Disease: CWD Testing in Texas

The mule deer hunting season is getting ready to start in Texas and hunters are asked to submit animals for testing. Hunters taking mule deer inside the West Texas Containment Zone during the 2015-16 mule deer hunting season are required to submit their harvest (unfrozen head) for CWD sampling at a check station within 24 hours of take.

Over 800 tissue samples have been collected for CWD testing purposes from hunter-harvested deer and elk from the Trans Pecos ecoregion the past three hunting seasons, and CWD has not been detected in mule deer located outside of the Hueco Mountain area.

 

“We recommend hunters in the Containment Zone and High Risk Zone quarter deer in the field and leave all but the quarters, backstraps, and head at the site of harvest if they are unable to bury the inedible carcass parts as deep as possible on the ranch or take them to a landfill,” said Shawn Gray, Mule Deer Program Leader for TPWD.

Mandatory check stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 27 – Dec. 13 and 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Dec 14. Stations will be located in Cornudas at May’s Café (on US 62-180) and in Van Horn at the Van Horn Convention Center (1801 West Broadway).

Hunters who harvest deer in the Containment Zone outside the general season under the authority of MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Permits) will need to call TPWD at (512) 221-8491 the day the deer is harvested to make arrangements to have the deer sampled for CWD.

Deer and elk harvested in other areas of the Trans Pecos and Panhandle regions may present their deer for CWD testing, to aid in statewide surveillance effort to contain the deer disease. A voluntary check station will be established at the Hip-O Taxidermy in Alpine (east side of town on US 90, across from Dairy Queen) during the first three weekends of the general season, Saturday through Monday (Nov. 28–30, Dec. 5–7, and Dec. 12–14), from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday. Other check station locations are illustrated on a map shown on TPWD’s main CWD web page.

All deer brought to the check stations this season will be aged as part of disease surveillance. Additional biological information such as antler measurements and field dressed weights will also be collected as time allows.

Mule Deer Population Boosted at Black Gap WMA

Drought cab be tough on wildlife and the mule deer population at Black Gap Wildlife Management Area took it on the chin, again, during the most-recent low rainfall period. It’s always dry out in West Texas, but this was a whole other level of dry. In an effort to boost a struggling mule deer population in and around the Black Gap, 40 mule deer does were relocated from Elephant Mountain Wildlife Management Area in early February. The mule deer population within Black Gap WMA and surrounding area has struggled to rebound from the drought of the late 1990’s.

“This relocation is the first in a multi-year project aimed at restoring mule deer at Black Gap WMA and the El Carmen Land and Conservation Co. property,” says Mitch Lockwood, director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s big game program. “Despite the excellent mule deer habitat at the El Carmen Land and Conservation Co. property and Black Gap WMA, mule deer numbers have remained very low over the past 35 years. These partners aim to help boost populations while researching why the region has seen limited growth in the population.”

Texas Mule Deer Hunting

After surveying the herd numbers of locations near Black Gap WMA, Elephant Mountain WMA was chosen to be where the first deer would be captured. “The mule deer population on Elephant Mountain is doing quite well,” says Mark Garrett, Trans-Pecos WMA Project Leader with TPWD. “The surplus deer that were removed will benefit habitat conditions for the vast array of other wildlife species living at this location.”

TPWD, along with the ECLCC — CEMEX-USA and Cuenca Los Ojos, Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services, Mule Deer Foundation, and Houston Safari Club have partnered together to help mule deer populations grow at Black Gap WMA/ECLCC.

“We are truly grateful for the generous contributions and tireless efforts of these dedicated partners,” says Lockwood. “They are no strangers to wildlife restoration in Texas, and we appreciate their steadfast support.”

The ECLCC property joins TPWD’s Black Gap WMA to comprise 135,000 contiguous acres dedicated to wildlife and habitat conservation. This diverse site of Chihuahuan desert scrub and desert grasslands climbs from the Rio Grande River to the Sierra del Carmen Mountain Range.

TPWD and their partners plan to translocate an additional 100 mule deer to the Black Gap WMA/ECLCC area in 2016, and will continue to monitor the movement of deer, habitat utilization, survival, and causes of mortality through 2017. Black Gap hopes to provide additional mule deer hunting in the future. Elephant Mountain WMA will continue to offer mule deer hunts through special draw public hunts.

CWD in Mule Deer & Elk in Texas

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a deer disease that nobody wants, but state agencies are obligated to monitor for the sake of wildlife populations and hunters alike. CWD was discovered in Texas just over two years ago limited to the northern part of the Trans-Pecos, but has it spread since then? Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) recently released the results from their sampling efforts for the 2014-15 hunting season. CWD was detected in one of 222 tissue samples that were collected from hunter harvested mule deer and elk from the Trans Pecos.

“Without the hunter check stations and the strong cooperation of hunters and landowners, we would know very little about the prevalence of the disease or where it exists,” said Mitch Lockwood, Big Game Program Director with TPWD. Also included in the sampling effort last season, 143 mule deer and elk brought to check stations were tested for bovine tuberculosis as part of a cooperative effort between TPWD and Texas Animal Health Commission to monitor for bovine tuberculosis. No positives were found.

CWD Deer Texas

To date, 839 deer and elk have been tested through the CWD check stations and strategic sampling that occurred during the summer of 2012; 282 were in the Containment Zone, 205 were in the adjacent High Risk Zone, 117 were in the Buffer Zone, and 235 were outside of the CWD zones. The disease has been detected in only 7 animals, all within the Hueco Mountain area, indicating a disease prevalence of 10–15 percent within that population.

“Additional sampling is necessary to develop more confidence in the geographic extent and prevalence of the disease, but the fact that CWD has not been detected in Texas outside of the Hueco Mountain area of northern El Paso and Hudspeth counties is encouraging,” said Lockwood.

CWD is a member of the group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Other diseases in this group include scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad cow disease) in cattle, and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness. CWD is not known to affect humans or livestock.

There is no vaccine or cure for CWD, but steps have been taken to minimize the risk of the disease spreading from beyond the area where it currently exists. The Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Animal Health commissions adopted rules to restrict movement of deer, elk, and other susceptible species within or from the CWD Zones as well increase surveillance efforts.

More details about CWD and the 2014-15 findings can be found online.

Mule Deer Hunting in Texas: Habitat and Herd Management

The mule deer hunting found across West Texas is pretty darn good, but it’s not by accident. Mule deer are an important resource because the demand for hunting is high and the income generated from hunting packages and leases has been an important component income for most landowners over the mule deer’s range. Their economic value has prompted many ranchers to become more aware of the management needs for mule deer. Indeed, many land use decisions (for example, livestock stocking rate, water developments, brush control) can have a major impact on mule deer. The extent of the impact, and whether it is positive or negative, depend primarily on the degree to which wildlife requirements were considered.

Deer management, like livestock management, varies from one ranch to another depending upon land characteristics and the rancher’s objectives. Just as some areas have a higher grazing capacity for cattle, some areas have a higher carrying capacity for mule deer. Simply stated, deer management involves three principles habitat management, population management and people management. Obviously, each of these will affect the others so it takes the right mix of this inputs to achieve the proper results.

Texas Mule Deer Hunting

The presence of suitable habitat determines where and in what abundance mule deer will be found. Generally, habitat management involves plant management, the two key points being knowing what plants are important for mule deer food and cover as well as knowing how to manipulate them. For rangeland habitats in West Texas, management tools may include grazing practices, brush management, supplemental water development, prescribed burning and receding operations as helpful wildlife management practices.

The next important factor for producing and maintaining mule deer is population or her management. This means property owners keep the deer population in balance with the habitat’s carrying capacity. It also involves manipulating the age and sex ratios, herd density and other factors affecting population growth (predation, migration, competition with white-tailed deer and exotics). Generally, population management centers around regulating deer harvest levels.

It’s important to note that mule deer and white-tailed deer management are not the same. There is a lack of definitive deer movement patterns and other population-related phenomena, such as natural mortality and competition with livestock which continues to hamper mule deer management in West Texas. Researchers within the state of Texas are conducting ongoing studies to get more information.

Lastly, hunter management is important because it is the means for managing mule deer population. This means landowners, maybe with help from wildlife biologists, must make harvest the proper number of deer annually, and the right deer on top of that. The age structure of the herd is important, especially as it relates to quality and buck harvest. Mule deer management in West Texas is looking good, spurred on by those interested in hunting, but there are still some unknowns that may help in future years. There is no denying that mule deer are interesting animals, and hunting them is a totally different ball game.

MLDP Permits for Mule Deer Hunting in Texas

White-tailed deer are not the only game in Texas. The mule deer hunting found in the Trans Pecos as the Texas Panhandle can be good. The brush and grass dominated country found in West Texas may be dry, but it can grow some big ole mule deer, especially near agricultural areas. Hunters should be excited because it looks like the mule deer hunting season is Texas is getting a little longer.

At least for landowners that are trying to manage their property. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) will be extending the existing mule deer Managed Lands Deer Permits (MLDP) season. The regulation change will be part of changes to the upcoming 2013-14 Statewide Hunting Proclamation. The longer hunting season for mule deer will mean more opportunity for deer management on lands looking to improve habitat and manage deer herds.

TPWD is extending the mule deer season on MLDP properties through the last Sunday in January, while maintaining the current opening date as the first Saturday in November. Over two months of mule deer hunting in Texas.. now that s something to get excited about!

Mule Deer Hunting in Texas - Longer Mule Deer Season Under MLDP

Mule Deer Hunting – Know What They Eat!

Whether a mule deer herd is being managed for quality antler production or high deer numbers, nutrition is the most
important factor to consider. Mule deer require a diet of approximately 16 percent protein along with carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and a variety of trace minerals. No single forage provides adequate levels of all these requirements, which emphasizes the importance of managing for a wide variety of shrubs/succulents, forbs and grass. The Trans-Pecos Region has a tremendous diversity of vegetation types which can provide excellent nutrition for mule deer, especially when rainfall is adequate. Vegetation in the Panhandle is less diverse, but some mule deer herds are on a high nutritional plane because of a combined diet of native forages and crops such as wheat, alfalfa, corn and/or sorghum.

Deer are selective feeders, eating a wide variety of the most nutritious foods available during each season of the year. Deer food plants can be classified as shrubs, succulents, forbs and grasses. The leaves, twigs and blooms of woody plants eaten by deer are called browse. Succulents such as cactus, lechuguilla and cholla may be included in this category. Water obtained from succulents is important in the arid Southwest and perhaps critical if free water is not available. The bulk of Texas mule deer diets consists of browse, representing approximately 70 percent. Many browse species are deciduous, losing most of their leaves after the first frost; therefore, evergreen browse is an important food source during the fall and winter period. Juniper (an evergreen) is not highly palatable or nutritious, but it can be an important source of energy and Vitamin A during winter when higher quality foods are absent.

Forbs are annual or perennial broadleaf plants and are highly preferred by deer when available. Although their availability is highly variable, forbs average about 25 percent of a deer’s diet. Forbs are usually the most nutritious and palatable class of plants, often exceeding 14 percent crude protein. Annual forbs are seasonal plants, and their abundance depends on soil moisture. As a result, they may be virtually non-existent during times of prolonged drought. For deer management purposes, annual forbs are not considered a reliable source of mule deer nutrition. Perennial forbs provide a more reliable source of forage, and they generally will be present on properly managed ranges. However, some of the higher quality perennial forbs may be scarce or lacking on many ranges, as livestock overgrazing and excessive deer numbers can limit their availability.

Mule Deer Hunting in West Texas Trans-Pecos

When the words “hunting” and “Texas” are mentioned together most hunters will automatically think of white-tailed deer hunting, but the mule deer hunting in Texas can be  noteworthy, as well. In fact, both the Trans-Pecos and the Texas Panhandle have been producing some picture-worthy mule deer bucks in recent years. Deer management, including both habitat improvement and select harvest, have payed off big for thoughtful landowners and mule deer hunters.  The trend is likely to continue, but like many saw this season, hunting will always be hunting.

Mule Deer Hunting in West Texas

Mule Deer Hunting: Texas 2012

The mule deer hunting season out in far West Texas was a slow one in 2012. The Trans-Pecos just has just had a tough run of it lately. From what I’ve seen, mule deer activity, and subsequently, hunting, for mule deer in this region of Texas was the slowest in many years. Many hunters observed low buck numbers, but there were at least a couple of reasons why many mulie hunters did not see as many deer as in years past.

Habitat Great, Mule Deer Hunting… Slow!

The grass is sometimes greener on the other side. Too green, in fact, according to many West Texas guides that had a more-difficult time putting customers on deer. The mule deer hunting season for gun hunters is only two weeks long, meaning the weather must cooperate during this window to encourage mule deer movement, generally making them more vulnerable for hunters. But habitat conditions in the Trans-Pecos region of Texas were great this season. Good rainfall high quality food, and plenty of it, was available.

Mule Deer Hunting Cools Down as Temps Rise

Rainfall allowed mule deer foods to flourish, but the heat kept them growing. Mild to hot temperatures limited hunter movement in many cases and the better-than-average leaf cover kept the deer that did move plenty hidden. One hunter said, “There are just too many places for deer to hide, and too much for them to eat. Why would they move?” Mule deer hunting during the cooler mornings were more successful than evening hunts.  The deer that were spotted were in great shape, fat and happy. A wet year does that for Texas’ wildlife.

Moon Phase During Mule Deer Season

Ask any deer hunter about a full moon and more often that not you’ll get a sentence full of colorful language right back at you. A full moon means deer activity after dark is much higher than normal thanks to increased visibility. It just so happened that there was a big, bright, full moon during the mule deer hunting season this year. The abundance of food, the warm temperatures and the moon had put everything in favor of the mule deer. And that, my friends, is why they call it hunting. Each year of deer hunting is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.

CWD Testing of Mule Deer in Texas

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is reminding mule deer hunters and landowners in the Trans-Pecos portion of West Texas about new procedures developed as part of TPWD Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) response plan. The plan includes mandatory check stations for harvested deer and elk taken inside the CWD Containment Zone (map), which covers portions of Culberson, Hudspeth and El Paso counties. Hunters lucky enough to harvest a deer in the CWD zone need to make sure that they get their animal tested.

Mule Deer Hunting in Texas - CWD Monitoring

Source: The CWD response plan is being implemented after tissue samples from two mule deer in far West Texas this past summer tested positive for CWD. These are the first cases of CWD detected in Texas deer, whitetail or mule deer.

Hunters taking mule deer inside the Containment Zone during the general season, Nov. 23 – Dec. 9, are required to submit their harvest (unfrozen head) for CWD sampling at mandatory check stations within 24 hours of harvest.

“We recommend hunters in the Containment Zone and High Risk Zone quarter deer in the field and leave all but the quarters, backstraps and head at the site of harvest if it is not possible to bury the inedible carcass parts at least 6 feet deep on the ranch or take them to a landfill,” said Shawn Gray, Mule Deer Program Leader for TPWD.

Mandatory check stations will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 23 – Dec. 10. Stations will be located in Cornudas at May’s Café (on US 62-180) and in Van Horn at Van Horn Convention Center (1801 West Broadway).

Hunters that harvest deer in the Containment Zone outside the general season under the authority of Managed Lands Deer Permits (MLDP) will need to call TPWD at (512) 221-8491 the day the deer is harvested to make arrangements to have the deer sampled for CWD.

In addition to protocols within the Containment Zone, TPWD has created a High Risk Zone for voluntary CWD sampling during the hunting season. Biologists have been collecting voluntary mule deer harvest data in the region since 1980 and this year CWD sampling will be offered in addition to age and weight measurements. Here is a list of voluntary mule deer check stations in West Texas.