The latest numbers on chronic wasting disease, or CWD, testing in Texas give some hope that efforts to contain the disease are working, according to state wildlife experts. The CWD testing year that ended in February produced just shy of 13,000 CWD samples statewide by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department with the help of participating landowners and hunters. This number includes all samples collected in Texas CWD Zones and far exceeds the target of 7,039 samples.
During this period, Texas recorded 26 new confirmed CWD positives, with six additional “suspect positives” awaiting confirmation. That includes CWD found in a new area, Val Verde County, in a free-ranging white-tailed deer last December, and a second found in close proximity about a month later. Plans to manage the disease in this area are ongoing. All the remaining new free-ranging positives were within existing containment zones.
“Hunters can still plan for a good fall deer season and we encourage them to continue to have their deer tested to help TPWD biologists with statewide sampling efforts. Early detection is critical to managing and containing CWD to protect Texas deer,” said Clayton Wolf, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife division director. “It is important for everyone to be aware and informed about this disease, the zones of concern, the regulations and the common-sense precautions we’ve recommended for years.”
CWD was also detected in Kimble County for the first time in a deer breeding facility in early February. That facility and facilities that had supplied deer to or received deer from that facility during the previous five years are under quarantine, and herd plans for those facilities are being developed with the Texas Animal Health Commission as well as plans for increased surveillance in the immediate area.
Four of the five Texas deer breeding facilities that tested positive in 2015-2016 are no longer in operation.
In Texas, CWD was first discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer along a remote area of the Hueco Mountains near the Texas-New Mexico border, and has since been detected in 176 white-tailed deer, red deer and mule deer in Dallam, El Paso, Hartley, Hudspeth, Kimble, Lavaca, Medina, Uvalde and Val Verde counties. Of those, 129 are connected to deer breeding facilities and release sites.
CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal neurological disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals. An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness.
To date there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids. However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals. For more information, see the TPWD website.