Texas has been keeping an eye on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) for a number of years now. Whitetail, mule deer and elk are known to be highly susceptible to the disease. CWD poses a significant threat to the social and economic importance of both mule deer and whitetail deer hunting in the state. State agencies have done as much as possible to safeguard CWD from entering into Texas by regulating the movement of deer through the commercial deer breeding industry, but CWD is currently knocking on Texas’s door, found just north of the Texas-New Mexico border in the Trans-Pecos region.
To complicate matters, recent findings have discovered that other ungulates can carry the disease. This has resulted in two more deer species being added to the list of “CWD susceptible” species, the Red deer and the Sika deer, both exotic species commonly found with whitetail deer on hunting ranches across Texas. The Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) announced that effective immediately it is has determined that Red deer (Cervus elaphus), and Sika deer (Cervus nippon) are “susceptible species” for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and thereforemust meet the same entry requirements as other cervid species regulated by the agency such as moose and elk.
The new entry rules for Red deer and Sika deer will require they originate from herds with at least five years of participation in a herd certification program from states where CWD has been detected, and at least three years participation in programs from states that have not found CWD thus far. The TAHC decision was based in part on the disclosure that a farmed Red deer herd in Minnesota was confirmed positive for CWD in May of this year. Additionally, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released an interim final CWD rule on June 8, which designates Sika deer and Red deer as susceptible CWD disease species. The USDA rule is intended to establish minimum requirements for interstate movement of all deer, elk, moose, and other susceptible cervids, and to also establish a national CWD certification program.
Under the new deer entry requirements, besides originating from a herd with three or five year status as described above, Red deer and Sika deer shippers must also obtain an entry permit and request entry in writing. Proper supporting documentation must also accompany the request for entry at least 10 days prior to the proposed entry date. More information on TAHC entry requirements related to cervids can be found in the Texas Administrative Code.
Native cervid species such as white-tailed deer and mule deer are regulated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), not the TAHC. Currently those species are entirely prohibited from entering Texas based on TPWD rules. Will all of these agency regulations prevent CWD from enter Texas? The answer is definitely no, especially since a deer (probably a mule deer) carrying CWD can walk right into West Texas. The bigger question is, “Will CWD ever severely impact deer hunting in Texas?” That I do not know, but I’m definitely in favor of slowing the spread of CWD and waiting as long as possible to find out.