Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is the deer version of Mad Cow Disease and it’s been lurking just across the Texas border in the state of New Mexico. Wildlife officials assumed it was just a matter of time before it stepped over into Texas, but no one wanted to imagine what impact it may have on deer hunting or the deer breeding industry. Unfortunately, the wait is over — CWD is in Texas. Two West Texas mule deer tested positive for CWD, the very first such cases to have been documented in Texas.
The discovery of CWD, a fatal illness that destroys a deer’s brain, this week has created a greater sense of urgency to impose stricter statewide regulations that will lessen the chances of the deer disease spreading elsewhere in the state.
The deer that tested positive for CWD were from the Hueco Mountains in El Paso, Texas, and Hudspeth counties. These areas now look to be restricted to “containment” and “high-risk” zones covering West Texas under proposed deer transport regulations.
Despite the positive tests, one Texas official said that the two instances of Chronic Wasting Disease among the 31 tested deer should not create cause for concern, this despite the fact that scientific reports cite CWD as comparable to Mad Cow Disease for cows and Cruetzfeldt-Jakob Disease for humans. “This is definitely not a crisis,” Clayton Wolf, wildlife division director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, told the media.
With its two positive tests, Texas became the 19th state to document positive tests for the disease. Texas has tested more than 33,000 total deer in the last decade, none of which had tested positive for the deer disease until now. The exact effect that the findings could have on the annual $1.5 billion brought in by the state by recreational deer hunting in Texas as well as the additional $650 million annually from the captive-deer industry remains unclear. One thing is for sure though, CWD now calls Texas home.
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