Texas’ New Deer Management Program has Options

The deer management and permit program offered by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) is going to see some changes in 2017. According to TPWD, the Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLDP) Program looks to take advantage of available technologies in order to better serve its customers. A faster, leaner online system will ensure the program runs as efficiently as possible.

Landowners participating in the wildly-popular MLDP will be able to complete the enrollment process and print their tags online beginning this summer, thanks to a new automated system being implemented by the TPWD. The new online process is just one aspect of a much-needed overhaul of the MLDP, which began in 1996 and has become so successful that it outpaced the department’s manpower and resources.

Deer Management Program in Texas

MLDP Participation

According to TPWD, there are currently more than 10,000 farms and ranches covering about 26 million acres that are enrolled in the MLD program. The program is designed to foster and support sound management and stewardship of native wildlife and wildlife habitats on private lands in Texas. Participation is recognized through incentive-based deer tag issuance that provides extended hunting season lengths and liberalized harvest opportunities beyond what is allowed under the county deer hunting regulations.

Participants also have access to varying levels of technical assistance regarding wildlife and habitat management from department biologists.

New MLDP Options

TPWD has simplified the program down to two options — Harvest or Conservation — from the previous three levels of white-tailed deer MLD, mule deer MLD, and the Landowner Assisted Management Permits (LAMPS). Both options retain issuance of deer tags that can be used during an extended hunting season about October 1 through the end of February, but the Harvest Option does come with early season buck harvest restrictions (archery equipment only in October for branched-antlered bucks). Antlerless and unbranched antler bucks may still be harvested by any legal means during the entire MLDP season.

Program Enrollment

Landowners seeking to enroll their property in either the MLDP Harvest or Conservation Option must use the new Land Management Assistance online system when it becomes available to submit an application for participation. The application process will require the landowner to create an account and to draw a property boundary in the online system.

An email address is required for the landowner and any designated agents the landowner may assign to the account. Read more about Land Management Assistance in Texas.

Land Management Assistance Online by TPWD

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) announced that it will be offering a new deer permit program in 2017, Land Management Assistance. The program will be the result of merging a couple of deer permit programs (MLDP+LAMPS) into two options, resulting in the Harvest Option and the Conservation Option.

Under the new deer permit program, participating landowners selecting the Harvest Option will receive automated deer harvest recommendations, tag issuance, and general correspondence about wildlife and habitat management for their property. No site specific deer population/survey data will be required under the Harvest Option, which also means property owners will not receive site specific harvest recommendations from a TPWD biologist.

Land Management Assistance Texas

The Conservation Option is similar in scope to the old Level 3 MLDP, and comes with customized technical guidance and harvest recommendations from TPWD, requiring at least 3 approved habitat management practices be implemented each year on a participating property.

Deer Management in Texas

TPWD currently issues about 330,000 deer tags each year through the MLDP Program. “Phenomenal growth in the MLD program over the last 20 years has presented significant challenges for staff to meet the increasing number of requests from landowners for technical assistance and simply administer the program,” explained Alan Cain, TPWD white-tailed deer program leader.

Effective this year, participants will be able to print their own MLDP tags, which will eliminate issues with tags lost in the mail, not arriving on time, or bad address, and provide greater convenience and flexibility to participants.

The system retooling won’t sacrifice the core mission of the program, Cain reassured, rather will enable limited wildlife biologist staff to focus private lands technical guidance efforts on site-specific wildlife population and habitat management recommendations.

Land Management Assistance Continued

“Our primary goal is to continue developing long-term relationships with private landowners, engage and educate them about the importance of management in promoting healthy habitats and wildlife populations, and ultimately put more resource conservation on the ground,” said Cain.

Despite the state’s economic growth, there is little doubt that white-tailed deer hunting and management will continue to be extremely popular in Texas. It will be interesting to hear how changes impact current program participants. Additional information and details about the deer management permit program is available online at TPWD.

9,830 CWD Samples in Texas 2016-17 Season

Unfortunately, white-tailed deer hunting, management and Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) now go hand-in-hand in Texas. It’s something that wildlife officials, hunters and deer herds are dealing with across the country. Texas and many states have been sampling hunter-harvested deer to find out more about where the deadly disease is and is not. The end game is far from unknown.

CWD Sampling in Texas

The 2016-17 collection year resulted in a couple of unwanted firsts for CWD in Texas, including detections in a free-ranging whitetail and a free-ranging elk. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) surpassed its statewide goal of 6,735 CWD samples, collecting 9,830 from hunter harvested and road kill deer, and other susceptible cervid species, between March 1, 2016 and Feb. 28, 2017.

CWD Update Texas

Sampling objectives were established by TPWD wildlife biologists 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 were present 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 voluntary and mandatory hunter harvest check stations. Of the 9,830 samples collected, 23 percent were road kill. Exotic species that have been 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.

Details about each CWD detection in Texas are available online. Just click on the image below to find out more.

Where is CWD in Texas?

Texas’ CWD First

Sometimes it’s good to have firsts—sometimes it’s not. Among the CWD positives detected in Texas this past season, here are some notable firsts:

  • The first confirmed case of CWD in a free-ranging Texas whitetail was detected 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 tested positive for the disease.

To date, Texas has recorded 49 confirmed cases of CWD, of which 26 were discovered in captive deer breeding pens, 5 were hunter harvested on breeder deer release sites, 16 were free-ranging mule deer, 1 was a free-ranging elk, and 1 was a free-ranging white-tailed deer.

CWD in West Texas

“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.

CWD in Central Texas

The state’s wildlife disease management response focuses on an early detection and containment strategy designed to limit the spread of CWD from the affected area and better understand the distribution and prevalence of the disease.

The detection of CWD in a free-ranging whitetail in Medina County this season resulted from enhanced voluntary testing of hunter harvested deer, allowing TPWD to initiate proactive measures aimed at containment rather than reactive steps targeting control.

“The more effective we are at containing this disease within a limited geographic area, the better it will be for our wildlife resources and all those who enjoy them,” Dittmar said. “We want to thank the Texas hunting community for its strong support of our management efforts; we cannot combat the spread of CWD without it.”

A detailed summary of CWD sampling for 016-17 season is available for review online.

Texas Fence Laws: What You Need to Know

Texas Fencing Laws

Whether you use your land for livestock grazing , white-tailed deer management or both, it’s a good idea to have a handle on Texas’ fencing laws. We’ve all heard the saying, “good fences make for good neighbors,” but even good folks with pretty good fences can get sideways when it comes to disputes over unforeseen situations, property lines and “extra” livestock.

Have you ever wondered if a landowner is liable if his livestock get out and are hit on the road? Can a land owner make a neighbor chip in and and pay for repairs to a shared boundary fence? What should a property owner do when someone else’s cattle are on their land? Or what can I do about my neighbor’s tree limbs hanging over the fence and onto my property?

Texas Fence Laws

Texas Fence Law Answered

There will come a time for every Texas landowner when having some general knowledge about fencing laws will come in handy. Fortunately, a new publication titled Five Strands: A Landowner’s Guide to Fence Law in Texas is now available to help landowners make sense of some of the more common issues property owners face across the Lone Star State.

The best thing—this handbook was written in terms that normal people can understand. It is designed as a resource that can be thrown on the dash of a pick up along with a ranchers’ other important documents. This publication provides answers to common questions related to fence law that come up frequently for Texas landowners and livestock producers.

Below are a several examples from the handbook:

My neighbor’s cattle are on my land. How do I remove them?

The answer depends on whether this situation occurs in an open-range county or in one that has passed a stock law making it a closed range.

Lessee Liability?

Many Texas livestock producers lease the land they they run their livestock on. This presents a question of who is responsible for fencing the land the livestock run on–the landowner or the lessee? Absent an agreement allocating responsibility between the landowner and the lessee, these laws could apply to both the landowner and the lessee who runs the livestock on a ranch.

How do the adequate fence standards of the Agriculture Code apply?

The Texas Agriculture Code establishes the requirements for a “sufficient fence;” however, these fencing standards apply only in open-range counties where fences are meant to keep livestock “out” rather than “in.”17 These sufficient fence standards do not apply in a closed-range county, nor can they be used to determine negligence or liability in a roadway accident situation.

Clearing Brush to Build a Fence on a Boundary Line

Sometimes a landowner building a fence along a boundary line must clear brush on both his or her own property and the neighbor’s property. If this is necessary, the landowner should always seek permission from the neighbor before entering his or her property and before any brush management takes place.

Without such permission, entering a neighbor’s property and removing the brush could be considered trespassing and subject the acting landowner to damages. It is always better to ask for permission ahead of time. If permission is denied, the landowner may have to back the fence up on his or her property.

Cutting Down a Tree Hanging over a Property Line

Assume that a tree grows on the neighbor’s property, but the limbs and branches overhang another’s land. What rights do the parties have in that situation? In Texas, the location of the trunk of the tree determines who owns it, even if the roots or branches grow onto an adjoining neighbor’s land. A landowner has the right to trim or cut off the limbs or branches of boundary trees or brush that reach onto his or her property, as long as no damage to the other adjoining landowner occurs.

However, the limbs or branches can be cut back only to the property line. The tree’s owner is responsible for any damages caused to the adjacent owner from falling branches or roots. It is in the best interest of the tree’s owner to control the growth of the tree so it does not create a source of potential damage to the neighboring landowner.

Louisiana Slams the Door on CWD

Louisiana Bans Cervid Carcasses in Name of Deer Herd Management

Louisiana wildlife officials recently slammed the door on hunters bringing back deer carcasses from other states. The move is in response to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) since the deer disease has been found in the free-ranging white-tailed deer herds in neighboring Arkansas and Texas. For decades now, numerous Louisiana hunters have made the annual pilgrimage west each fall, but getting deer from Texas and elsewhere back to LA has just gotten more difficult.

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries announced late last month that the cervid-carcass import ban approved last year goes into effect. That means hunters who travel out of state to target white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, fallow deer, axis deer, sika deer, red deer and reindeer may not bring many parts of those animals back into the state of Louisiana, which to-date has remained free of CWD.

Louisiana Bans Cervid Carcasses in Name of Deer Herd Management

Louisiana’s Cervid Import Regulation

Source: The regulation reads in part: No person shall import, transport or possess any cervid carcass or part of a cervid carcass originating outside of Louisiana, except: for meat that is cut and wrapped; meat that has been boned out; quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, antlers, clean skull plates with antlers, cleaned skulls without tissue attached, capes, tanned hides, finished taxidermy mounts and cleaned cervid teeth. Any and all bones shall be disposed of in a manner where its final destination is at an approved landfill or equivalent. Said rule shall be effective March 1, 2017.

The ban defines a cervid as animals of the family Cervidae, including but not limited to white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, moose, caribou, fallow deer, axis deer, sika deer, red deer and reindeer.

This ban is strictly for the purpose of reducing the likelihood that CWD will enter Louisiana through carcass importation. Approved parts and meat from other states must contain a possession tag with the hunter’s name, out-of-state license number (if required), address, species, date and location (county and state) of harvest. Each state has different possession requirements for game once processed.

Goal of Carcass Ban

The new regulation is deigned to maintain the “Sportman’s Paradise” that Louisiana offers by reducing the likelihood of CWD moving into the state. For those that have been under a rock for the past 10 years, CWD is a neurodegenerative disease that is 100-percent fatal to cervids that contract it.

The long-term impacts of CWD on deer herds is unknown, although Colorado, the state where CWD was first discovered (1967), appears to have decreased cervid populations. Whether these declines are strictly CWD-related, however, is unknown. Over the short-run, CWD does appear to change the demographics of the local deer herds where the disease is found, resulting in a younger average age because deer do not live as long.

States with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)
States with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

Managing CWD Positive Deer Herds

CWD poses a risk to deer and deer hunting simply because it introduces another variable in the deer management/harvest equation. It’s still basically an unknown, a factor that will have some amount of impact on an annual basis once it works its way into a localized herd. After that, it begins to spread because there is no way to get rid of it.

A carcass ban on harvested cervids appears to be an effective way to stop the fast-tracking of CWD to new, uninfected areas. Of course, CWD will continue to spread naturally throughout North America. Carcass bans make it tough on hunters when it comes to transporting harvested deer home, but we also understand that it is helping to protect the natural resources that we enjoy. I hope that CWD is something that I never have to factor in to the deer management equation, but I suspect it’s just a matter of time.