TPWD Records First CWD Cases In Free-ranging Elk, Whitetail
Agency tested nearly 10,000 samples for CWD
Texas recorded a couple of unwanted firsts for chronic wasting disease (CWD) during statewide surveillance efforts for the 2016-17 collection year. A free-ranging whitetail and a free-ranging elk tested positive for the disease. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) collected 9,830 samples for testing between March 1, 2016 and Feb. 28, 2017.
TPWD wildlife biologists established sampling objectives based on deer densities within each of the 41 Deer Management Units (DMU) in Texas and other factors to establish sufficient confidence of detection, if CWD appeared within those localized populations. TPWD wildlife staff collected CWD samples from a variety of locations including: road kill deer, deer processors, private ranches, wildlife management areas and state parks, and check stations.
Notable firsts in data
Of the 9,830 samples collected, 23 percent were road kill. Exotic species sampled include axis deer, fallow deer, red stag, sika, and elk; although there is no evidence that axis and fallow deer are susceptible to this disease. Among the CWD positives detected in Texas this past season, some notable firsts:
• Biologists detected the first confirmed case of CWD in a free-ranging Texas whitetail in a hunter harvested 1 1/2-year-old buck submitted for sampling within the Surveillance Zone 3 located in portions of Medina, Uvalde, and Bandera counties.
• The first known free-ranging elk in Texas to test positive for CWD, harvested by a hunter in Dallam County.
• The first known case of a captive-raised white-tailed deer in Texas that live tested “not detected” for CWD. But after being harvested by a hunter on a release site three months later, it tested positive for the disease.
Tally of collected samples
To date, Texas has recorded 49 confirmed cases of CWD. Twenty-six of those appeared in captive deer breeding pens; five hunter-harvested deer on breeder release sites tested positive; 16 free-ranging mule deer tested positive; one free-ranging elk tested positive; and one free-ranging white-tailed deer tested positive.
“The good news is so far our sampling in the Tran-Pecos has only detected CWD in the Hueco Mountains area,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD wildlife veterinarian. “Since 2012, the disease has been found in 13 mule deer out of 117 tested in the Hueco Mountains area for an 11 percent prevalence rate.”
Dittmar also expressed guarded confidence that CWD has not spread outside the Hueco Mountains area based on increased sampling in the surrounding ranges. “The mandatory sampling in the Trans-Pecos SZ helped get an increase in sampling from the Delaware Mountains this year, and while we have accumulated a decent number of samples around the Guadalupe Mountains, both remain areas of concern and we still need some more sampling out there,” he noted.