Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, known as “cervids.” The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado, and has since been documented in captive and free-ranging deer in 21 states and two Canadian Provinces. This disease presents numerous challenges for state wildlife agencies across North America. Of concern is the potential for decline within deer, elk, or other susceptible cervid populations. In addition, CWD could have indirect impacts on hunting, hunter participation, and economic benefits derived from big game hunting. In Texas, hunting is a $2.2 billon economic engine, supporting many rural towns across the state.
Because eradication is thought to be impossible once CWD becomes established in a population, it is imperative that a sound CWD management program is established to reduce the severity of implications resulting from the disease. Of course, disease prevention is the best approach to protect cervid populations and prevent social and economic repercussions. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) have developed a cooperative CWD management plan to guide both agencies in addressing risks, developing management strategies, and protecting big game resources from Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in captive or free-ranging cervid populations.
Texas CWD Updates
New CWD Management Rules adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission on June 20, 2016 went into effect on August 15, 2016. The new rules address CWD management associated with permitting programs that authorize intensive deer management activities, and were developed through a collaborative process that involved substantial stakeholder input. A copy of the new rules is available here. Additional rules regarding CWD monitoring zones and carcass movement restrictions were adopted by the TPW Commission on August 25, 2016, and are expected to become effective on October 1, 2016. Both sets of rules are intended to reduce the chances of spreading CWD and increasing the chances of detecting and containing CWD in areas where it might be present. A brief summary of the discovery of CWD in white-tailed deer in Texas is as follows.
CWD was confirmed in the Hueco Mountains of New Mexico during the 2011-12 deer hunting season. As a result of regionally-focused deer sample collection efforts by TPWD, CWD was confirmed in some of Texas’ free-ranging mule deer in 2012.
On June 30, 2015, the department received confirmation that a two-year-old white-tailed deer held in a deer breeding facility in Medina County (referred to as the “index facility”) had tested positive for CWD. Subsequent testing confirmed the presence of CWD in three additional white-tailed deer at the index facility. Heightened testing requirements implemented statewide since the initial discovery of CWD in Medina County have resulted in additional discoveries. A total of 25 white-tailed breeder deer have now been confirmed positive at four facilities (including the index facility). A total of four CWD positive deer were found in the index facility. Five CWD positive deer that originated from the index facility were discovered in a Lavaca County breeding facility. A CWD positive deer was harvested from a Medina County release site and another CWD positive deer was sampled in the associated breeding facility located on the same ranch. While this breeding facility is epidemiologically linked to the index facility, neither positive deer at this location originated from the index facility.
Most recently, another CWD positive deer was discovered in another Medina County deer breeding facility, and subsequent testing revealed an additional thirteen CWD positive deer from the same facility, totaling 14 positive deer at that location. Additionally during the 2015/16 hunting season, a free-ranging hunter-harvested mule deer in Hartley County was also confirmed to have CWD, as well as another hunter-harvested mule deer in the Hueco Mountains. A total of 34 CWD positive deer have been discovered in Texas to date, 25 of those from white-tailed deer in captive deer breeding facilities and 9 from free-ranging mule deer.
Texas CWD Management Plan
The Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan will serve to guide Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) in addressing risks, developing management strategies, and protecting big game resources from Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in captive or free-ranging cervid populations. Both agencies recognize the need for full cooperation and partnership among government agencies, conservation organizations, private landowners, hunters, and the general public should CWD occur in Texas.
CWD is a reportable disease and TAHC has authority for reporting and tracking this disease in alternative livestock, which includes elk, red deer and sika deer. TPWD has regulatory authority for free-ranging white-tailed deer and mule deer, and both agencies share regulatory authority over captive deer held under the authority of Deer Breeder Permits.
This management plan is intended to be dynamic; management strategies described within are likely to change as both the epidemiology and management of this disease become better understood through time. Specific response plans may be developed and incorporated into this plan following local or regional discoveries of CWD. Three major goals of this CWD management plan are:
- Minimize CWD risks to the wild and captive white-tailed deer, mule deer, and other susceptible species in Texas.
- Establish and maintain support for prudent CWD management with hunters, landowners, and other stakeholders.
- Minimize direct and indirect impacts of CWD to hunting, hunting related economies, and conservation in Texas
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