Texas has diseased deer problem

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was found in an intensively managed white-tailed deer herd, a deer breeder operation, in Medina County in 2015, and was discovered in a free-ranging mule deer population in the Hueco Mountains in far West Texas in 2012.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) testing — conducted since 2002 on more than 32,000 samples — indicates that CWD is not in the free-ranging white-tailed deer population.

CWD is to deer what mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) is to cattle. It is a transmissible disease that causes infected deer to weaken and die.

This issue is about wildlife and wildlife enthusiasts of Texas. Nearly 1 million Texas hunters depend on that state’s 4.5 million white-tailed deer for recreation and food. Deer hunting in Texas provides an estimated $4 billion annual economic impact. Income from white-tailed deer hunting leases keeps rural lands intact and provides habitat for all wildlife.

Texas is not alone in managing against CWD. According to TPWD, “The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has monitored an infected mule deer population in southeast Wyoming. In 2001, there were an estimated 14,393 mule deer and a CWD prevalence of 15 percent. Ten years later, the disease prevalence was 57 percent and the population was estimated at less than 7,500 deer.”

Texas is the only state to allow deer from breeder herds to be liberated into the wild and comingled with free-ranging deer. In many other states that have “shooting preserves,” 100 percent of all deer harvested must be tested.

A similar problem in managing this type of disease was with “the cow that stole Christmas in 2003.”  BSE was found in 1 dairy cow imported from Canada into Washington State. U.S. cattle markets and consumer confidence collapsed, beef consumption dropped, export markets were closed, and billions of dollars were lost.

The United States had national and state plans in place well in advance of this crisis and swift actions were taken to control the spread of this disease. The recovery was long, difficult and expensive, but Americans were successful in controlling the disease and restoring the confidence of consumers and export markets.