Texas eyes new rules over fatal deer disease

HARLINGEN — Advocates for wild Texas deer and farmed deer breeders have been on a collision course since the first positive test for chronic wasting disease at a facility in Medina County in June 2015.

The fatal disease of both mule deer and white-tailed deer, as well as elk and moose, has now been found in 10 captive deer in Texas. The first case, in the Hueco Mountains near the New Mexico border, was discovered in a wild mule deer in 2012.

A Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission vote on new rules to increase regulation of the farmed deer industry could come as soon as Monday in Austin. However, a vote on the regulations already has been delayed once.

Those proposed regulations, say some of the deer farmers, have the potential to put an end to the fastest-growing industry in rural Texas, one they say is worth $1 billion a year to the state’s economy.

Advocates aligned against deer farming say the spread of CWD threatens the $2.2 billion Texas hunters pump into the economy every year pursuing wild deer.

Most of the 1,300 permitted deer farms in Texas, unlike some other places, have more to do with trophy bucks than they do with processing and selling venison. Texan breeders say they are doing hunters a service by producing and releasing white-tailed deer with better genes — and most importantly, with much more massive antlers.

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TPWD hearing

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission will be holding a meeting about the proposed regulations. You can watch the meeting online and comment on their website:

Location: J.J. Pickle Research Campus in the Commons Learning Center at 10100 Burnet Road, Building 137, Austin, TX, 78758.

Time: 9 a.m. Monday

ONLINE: tpwd.texas.gov/business/feedback/meetings/

Twitter: Follow TPWD tweets using hashtag #TPWcom

More Information

What is chronic wasting disease?

– Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a prion disease that affects cervids.

– The known natural hosts of CWD are mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk and moose.

– It is always fatal, and there is no vaccine or cure.

– CWD was first identified as a fatal wasting syndrome in captive mule deer in Colorado in the late 1960s and in the wild in 1981.

– To date, no strong evidence of CWD transmission to humans has been reported.

– CWD has been recorded in 24 states and two Canadian provinces.

– Texas has recorded 10 CWD cases involving farm-raised deer.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TPWD

What is a prion (PREE-on)?

– Prion diseases are a family of rare progressive neurodegenerative disorders that affect both humans and animals.

The term “prions” refers to abnormal, pathogenic agents that are transmissible and are able to induce abnormal folding in the brain.

Prion diseases are always fatal.

Human prion diseases:

– Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

– Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

– Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker Syndrome

– Fatal Familial Insomnia

Kuru

Animal Prion Diseases:

– Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

– Chronic Wasting Disease

Scrapie

– Transmissible mink encephalopathy

– Feline spongiform encephalopathy

– Ungulate spongiform encephalopathy

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention