By Texas Deer Association
For the first time, chronic wasting disease (CWD) was detected in Texas in two wild, free-ranging mule deer, according to an announcement made by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on July 10, 2012. Specifically, it was disclosed that test results from two of 31 free-ranging mule deer located in far West Texas on the New-Mexico/Texas border, tested positive for CWD. TPWD recently increased efforts to locate Texas mule deer infected with CWD, which culminated with the harvest of some 31 free-ranging mule deer in the spring of 2012.
Attempts to eradicate CWD in other states, such as Wisconsin, have proven ineffective and have had disastrous effects on local economies dependent on hunting related goods and services. Texas Deer Association (TDA) President Gilbert Adams, III stated that any response to the detection "must be constructed in such a way that neither the $2 billion hunting industry nor the almost $1 billion Texas deer breeding industry suffer from an ill-designed plan. These two irreplaceable industries must be preserved to ensure their continued contributions to the state's struggling economy, especially the rural economy."
TDA, comprised of white-tailed and mule deer enthusiasts of all levels, including hunters, ranchers, biologists, ranch managers, deer breeders and landowners, believes it is vital that the free-ranging deer populations in Texas be adequately monitored for CWD to protect all Texas deer. TDA encourages TPWD to ensure that any response plan implemented be reasonable, based on science and protect not only breeder deer and free-ranging deer populations, but also the hunting and breeding industries in Texas. Additionally, any response plan should offer solutions to more effectively monitor free-ranging deer populations across the state in the future. TDA encourages that all stakeholders be included in the development and implementation of any potential response plan.
CWD was first identified in 1967 in a Colorado Division of Wildlife research facility. As early as 2002, New Mexico announced positive CWD test results in free-ranging mule deer near the White Sands Missile Range, with additional announcements of positive findings including in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2011. There are no deer breeding programs in New Mexico. CWD has never been detected in any Texas breeder deer, despite rigorous mandatory testing requirements.
CWD is an infectious neurological disease that has been found in cervid populations - mostly free-ranging populations - in 19 additional states. TPWD has previously stated, "There is no indication that CWD in deer can lead to disease in native livestock or people. Wildlife officials regard prevention as the primary and most effective tool to combat CWD."
The Texas Deer Association and the Texas deer breeding industry have promoted and cooperated with efforts for CWD detection, monitoring and prevention from the inception of the CWD surveillance programs implemented initially in 2002. Texas deer breeders have rigorous testing and reporting requirements, with breeders testing a minimum of 20 percent of all eligible deaths, at their own expense and without taxpayers' assistance. Additionally, many Texas deer breeders are enrolled in the Texas Animal Health Commission's (TAHC) CWD Monitored Herd program, which requires testing of 100 percent of all eligible deaths, again at their own expense.
In an effort to do their part in ensuring the health and welfare of Texas deer herds, Texas deer breeders have tested for CWD at a much higher percentage than the percentage of CWD tests conducted on free-ranging deer herds in Texas. Their efforts have come at a cost estimated to exceed $1,300,000 to permitted deer breeders in Texas, without taxpayers' assistance. In addition, TDA has a strict internal code of ethics to promote and encourage compliance and take steps against members who violate those ethical requirements.
In April 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, published its long-awaited report summarizing that cervid (deer and elk) breeders across the nation have tested approximately 170,120 breeder cervids since 1998 and only 114 white-tailed deer tested positive for CWD - none of which are in Texas. The other 289 positive tests results were reportedly from elk samples submitted by elk breeders. Out of approximately 848,706 free-ranging (non-breeder) cervids tested across the nation since 1998, approximately 3600 free-ranging cervids were found to be CWD positive. USDA also noted that the total number of CWD positive wild cervids reported to APHIS is not absolute since not all of the CWD positive findings in the wild herds are reported once the population is recognized to have affected animals.
The USDA data represents only those animals tested, not the total population, and CWD surveillance programs for both wild and breeder cervids differ according to state regulations.TPWD reports that from 2002 through 2010, a total of 33,900 breeder and wild cervids have been tested for CWD, but CWD has never been found in Texas in white-tailed deer.