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Officials issue emergency order for chronic wasting disease in deer-breeding facilities

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Deer at six breeding sites in the state have recently tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), prompting an emergency order from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) on June 22.

“Existing rules already restrict the movement of deer from 264 sites in 95 counties that are directly linked to these CWD-positive facilities, but further measures are necessary given the gravity of this situation,” read a press release from TPWD.

TPWD officials told the Bulletin that the the sites were located in Uvalde, Hunt, Matagorda, and Mason Counties, but were not able to confirm the specific locations and names of the deer breeding facilities.

The Bandera Bulletin sent an open records request to TPWD regarding the locations and names of the deer breeding facilities affected by the recent emergency order, but has yet to hear back.

CWD is a fatal neurological disease found in certain cervids, including deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family.

Due to a long incubation, cervids infected with CWD may not produce any visible signs for a number of years after becoming infected. As the disease progresses, animals with CWD show changes in behavior and appearance.

Clinical signs may include, progressive weight loss, stumbling or tremors with a lack of coordination, excessive thirst, salivation or urination, loss of appetite, teeth grinding, abnormal head posture, and/or drooping ears.

Officials have taken action to secure all cervids at the CWD-positive facilities with plans to conduct additional investigations for CWD. In addition, those breeding facilities that received deer or shipped deer to those facilities during the last five years are under movement restrictions and cannot move or release cervids until cleared by a herd plan.

The additional measures included in this emergency order include enhanced testing requirements for facilities with close epidemiological ties to the CWD-positive facilities and antemortem testing of deer from all movement qualified deer breeding facilities prior to transfer to a release site.

According to TPWD officials, These requirements are necessary to further minimize risk of CWD spreading into Texas’ free-ranging white-tailed deer herd, and to protect the captive deer breeding industry.

“This is a terribly unfortunate development that we are committed to addressing as proactively, comprehensively, and expeditiously as possible,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “The health of our state’s free-ranging and captive deer herds, as well as affiliated hunting, wildlife, and rural based economies, are vitally important to Texas hunters, communities, and landowners. As such, our primary objectives are to enhance testing at sites that received deer from affected facilities and avoid the unintentional release of CWD-positive deer. Along with our partners at the Texas Animal Health Commission, we will continue to exercise great diligence and urgency with this ongoing investigation.”

In Texas, the disease 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 228 captive or free-ranging cervids, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, red deer and elk in 13 Texas counties.

The Center for Disease Control says there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to human or non-cervids, but as a precaution recommends not consuming meat or coming in contact with brain or body fluids from infected animals.