Texas Parks and Wildlife adopts new rules to halt chronic wasting disease

HARLINGEN – Deer farmers walked out en masse, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department today adopted new rules to regulate transport of captive deer to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease.

The fatal disease was first discovered in 2012 in a wild mule deer near the New Mexico border. But TPWD says since then 10 cases have been found in pen-raised white-tailed deer on game ranches.

The rules passed Monday are part of a comprehensive disease management plan designed to regulate the artificial movement of deer under several TPWD permits, including deer breeder permits, Triple T (trap, transfer and transplant) permits, DMP (deer management permit) and TTP (trap, transport and process) permits.

Some deer farmers say the new rules are regulatory overreach, and threaten what they say is a $1 billion a year industry in the state.

In a statement yesterday on its Facebook page the Texas Deer Association, which fought the new regulations, said it had worked for compromise on the issues but was overruled.

“It became clear during the most recent TPW commission meeting that TDA’s goals, as well as the achievable solutions we have offered for the industry, are not shared by the department,” the statement read.

“In a show of unprecedented unity, the Texas deer industry walked out of today’s special TPWD commission meeting after explaining to commissioners why rules could not be accepted by industry as proposed by TPWD staff.

The TDA said the new regulations would potentially force “hundreds of family-owned agribusinesses” to shut down, but said it would continue to try to work with TPWD on future regulatory issues.

In Texas, captive deer are often moved from county to county by breeders, but deer cannot be brought in from out of state.

Advocates who backed the new rules on the transport of farm-raised deer say the $2.2 billion spent annually by Texas hunters is at risk if CWD spreads widely in the state’s wild deer herd.

There are 1,300 permitted deer farms in Texas, which primarily focus on producing white-tailed deer with better genetics and bucks with bigger racks.

The TPWD vote in favor of the new chronic wasting disease rules was unanimous.

“I am grateful to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department staff for a thorough, inclusive and transparent process. I am encouraged by the participation and broad support from the vast majority of speakers at today’s hearing, from hunters to land owners, wildlife biologists, veterinarians and more,” said Jenny Sanders, executive director of Texans for Saving Our Hunting Heritage.

“By adopting the rules proposed today, Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission is protecting our native deer herd and preserving hunting heritage in Texas,” Sander said.

Her group supported increased regulation of deer farming operations.