AUSTIN – Texas remains vigilant in monitoring and testing for chronic wasting disease, with no reported spread beyond existing containment zones over the last 12 months. However, the discovery of CWD in a free-ranging whitetail near the perimeter of the disease containment zone in south central Texas has led to a recommended expansion of that zone.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) surpassed its statewide goal of 6,735 CWD samples, collecting 10,421 between March 1, 2018 and Feb. 28, 2019.
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. Exotic species that have been sampled include axis deer, fallow deer, red stag, sambar deer, sika, and elk; although there is no evidence that axis, fallow, and sambar deer are susceptible to this disease.
Details about each CWD detection in Texas are available on the TPWD web site.
Among the 75 CWD positives detected in Texas this past season, 55 were from penned deer in a breeding facility where we already knew the disease existed, and 7 were from deer breeder release sites adjacent to CWD-positive deer breeding facilities. Five free-ranging mule deer in the Trans-Pecos CZ and 2 free-ranging mule deer and 3 white-tailed deer in the Panhandle CZ were also found to be positive.
“The jump in the number of CWD positives in these particular pen deer is directly correlated to sampling of a large number of deer in one facility where we’ve known about the existence of this disease for the past three years,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD wildlife veterinarian. “This is likely a symptom of allowing deer to remain in a positive facility, but fortunately, there has not been an increase in the number of CWD-positive facilities.”
Also worthy of mention was the confirmation of CWD in a pair of free-ranging Texas whitetail bucks within Containment Zone 3 located in portions of Medina, Uvalde, and Bandera counties.
On Dec. 31, 2018, TPWD received CWD confirmation for a 4 ½-year-old free-ranging white-tailed buck within Containment Zone 3 (CZ 3) in Medina County. The deer was harvested by a hunter on a low-fenced property near the CZ 3 boundary. Because of various factors, including white-tailed deer movements and barriers to deer movements (e.g., high fences) in this particular geographic region of the state, wildlife officials determined that CZ 3 should be enlarged. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will consider rulemaking on a proposed expansion of CZ 3 at its upcoming May 22 public hearing.
The other free-ranging whitetail buck from CZ 3 that tested positive was an 8 ½-year-old deer harvested within a high-fenced property. At present, CWD has not been detected outside the current containment zones.
“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.”
The state’s wildlife disease management response, developed by TPWD in collaboration with the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), 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.
Since 2012, Texas has recorded 144 CWD positives, 108 of which are connected to deer breeding facilities and release sites.