Chronic wasting disease (CWD) was recently detected in a free-ranging, 5 1/2-year-old white-tailed doe between Del Rio and Amistad Reservoir in far southwest Texas, according to recent reports from the Texas Parks Wildlife Departement. TPWD says it is the first confirmed case of the disease in Val Verde County.
The report says TPWD and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) are implementing a containment strategy designed to limit the spread of CWD from the affected area and better understand the distribution and prevalence of the disease.
“Because eradication is thought to be impossible once CWD becomes established in a population, it is imperative that we work with other agencies, landowners and hunters to contain this disease within a limited geographic area and prevent it from spreading further among Texas deer populations,” said Dr. Bob Dittmar, TPWD’s Wildlife Veterinarian. “This containment strategy is particularly urgent considering this detection happened in the middle of the general deer season.”
The discovery resulted in the issuance of an executive order from TPWD Executive Director Carter Smith creating immediate CWD containment and surveillance zones for the area (see map).
Under that order, a CWD Containment Zone and all associated rules for that designation are in now in effect. CWD Containment and Surveillance Zone rules include restrictions on the movements of carcass parts as well as live deer possessed under the authority of a permit.
The department is also implementing mandatory CWD testing of deer harvested within the containment and surveillance zone within 48 hours of harvest at a new check station located at the RV park at the Del Rio Fisherman’s Headquarters. For full details and instructions on how to bring harvested deer to the check station, hunters should check the Outdoor Annual mobile app or online.
“This temporary emergency action will allow us to try to contain CWD within the affected zone while we collect more information and gather more data,” said Smith.
“The protection of our state’s big game resources is of vital importance and we are grateful to hunters, landowners and local officials for their cooperation in following these rules and spreading the word in their community to help keep the disease contained.”
CWD among cervids is a progressive, fatal neurological disease that commonly results in altered behavior as a result of microscopic changes made to the brain of affected animals.
An animal may carry the disease for years without outward indication, but in the latter stages, signs may include listlessness, lowering of the head, weight loss, repetitive walking in set patterns, and a lack of responsiveness.
To date there is no evidence that CWD poses a risk to humans or non-cervids.
However, as a precaution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recommend not to consume meat from infected animals.
"Though CWD has not been discovered in exotic susceptible species in Val Verde County, our agency is working proactively alongside our TPWD partners to achieve enhanced surveillance for all susceptible species in the identified zones," said Dr. Andy Schwartz, TAHC Executive Director and State Veterinarian.
Hunters are encouraged to report any “sick looking” deer, elk, or other CWD susceptible species while hunting in any CWD zone to TPWD. Contact information for the CWD zone check stations is found within the CWD section of the current Outdoor Annual and associated smart device application. To report a “sick looking” deer outside of a CWD zone, contact a TPWD wildlife biologist or Texas Game Warden.
TPWD will continue to collect samples from all hunted properties located within the containment and surveillance zone as well as roadkills.
The department is seeking as many additional samples for testing as it can obtain in order to get a better handle on the geographic extent and prevalence of the disease in this area.