Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed in free-ranging white-tailed deer in Texas. Yesterday, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) announced that a free-ranging white-tailed deer in Medina County tested positive for CWD. The disease had been previously documented in mule deer and elk (in the Texas Trans-Pecos and Panhandle) and in whitetail associated with two deer breeding facilities, but this is the first time CWD has been found in a wild white-tailed deer in Texas.
The deer was harvested during the deer hunting season for Medina County. The hunter brought the 1 1/2 year old buck deer to a voluntary CWD check station located within the surveillance zone that extends across portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties.
TPWD and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) are taking steps to deploy 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.
“Although the disease has been discovered in a free ranging whitetail in this area, we cannot draw any conclusions at this time based on one detection,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD’s Wildlife Veterinarian. “The proactive measures we are taking as part of our epidemiological investigation into this case are in line with the state’s strategies to prevent this disease from spreading any further. 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.”
Effective immediately under an executive order issued by TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith, Surveillance Zone 3 (SZ3), which extends across portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties, is now a CWD Containment Zone and all associated rules for that designation are in effect. Those rules include restrictions on the movements of carcass parts as well as live deer possessed under the authority of a permit. The department is also implementing mandatory CWD testing of hunter harvested deer within this containment zone.
“This emergency action allows us to contain the threat of this disease spreading any further while we collect more information and gather more data,” said T. Dan Friedkin, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman. “Not only are these temporary emergency measures necessary and consistent with the state’s planned strategies for CWD management, they are essential for ensuring the protection of the state’s whitetail deer herd and the integrity of our hunting heritage.
“It is my intent for the Commission to address this issue through our regular rulemaking process, which provides opportunities for public comment and input from stakeholders, and that process will begin soon,” Friedkin added.
“With the confirmation of CWD in a free-ranging buck in Medina County, the TAHC is working with TPWD to determine the disease risk in the area,” said Dr. Susan Rollo, TAHC State Epidemiologist. “TAHC understands and appreciates TPWD’s immediate response and temporary measures to prevent the inadvertent spread of CWD to other parts of Texas.”
This most recent detection of CWD resulted from enhanced voluntary testing of hunter harvested deer in SZ3. TPWD’s sampling goal for SZ3 for the 2016-17 hunting season is 1,749 samples. As of today, the department has received about 720 samples from hunter harvests and roadkills within the zone and anticipates receiving about 200 additional samples from deer breeding facilities and associated release sites in SZ3.
“TPWD is very appreciative of the effort and cooperation that has been put forth by landowners, hunters and local officials in the area,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “Our ability to control this disease is directly related to the cooperation offered by the citizens of Medina, Bandera and Uvalde counties, and we pledge to continue to work with everyone to minimize the impacts of this disease as well as these challenging but necessary measures designed to control the spread of CWD.”
While the general deer hunting season is over, TPWD will continue to collect samples from MLDP (Managed Lands Deer Program) properties in the new Containment Zone as well as roadkills. The agency is seeking as many additional samples for testing as it can obtain in order to get a better handle on the geographic extent and prevalence of the disease in this area.
CWD was first discovered in Medina County in a dead buck in a white-tailed deer breeding facility in June 2015, with additional deer from that facility subsequently testing positive. The surveillance zone that includes portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde Counties was established in response to those positive samples.
CWD started in Texas with positives in mule deer in the far west and then the panhandle. The distance between the always-fatal deer disease and the stronghold of Texas’ whitetail herd offered some degree of comfort for the majority of deer hunters. Then CWD popped up in breeder facilities found in Medina and Lavaca Counties. Now the epicenter of CWD in Texas’ free-ranging whitetail herd is Medina County, which is much closer to home for many Texas hunters. The saga continues, but how does it play out?