AUSTIN (KXAN) — Saturday marks the start of deer hunting season but there is a battle brewing between breeders and the state that could affect Texas’ $2 billion hunting industry.
It all comes down to chronic wasting disease (CWD) — the deer version of mad cow disease. It attacks the brains of deer, elk and moose and is ultimately fatal.
On June 30, chronic wasting disease was found and confirmed in a captive herd in Medina County. The first report of chronic wasting disease in Texas whitetails prompted state leaders to take action. Texas Parks & Wildlife enacted emergency regulations, ordering breeders to temporarily halt business. A necessary move to save the industry some say, while others argue it was out of line and over enforced.
“It shut down our industry for 54 days. That’s not a few days or a few weeks, that’s a few months. In any other industry in Texas, that would not have been an acceptable response,” said Patrick Tarlton, Director of Texas Deer Association
Texas Parks and Wildlife also increased testing for CWD in captive-bred deer and are restricting their movements and release sites. Increased testing is also planned on hunter-harvested deer, but it’s voluntary. Officials are worried that the outbreak might spread to wild deer.
“It’s a major problem, we need to know how it got here and we will not find that out unless we do more testing especially on animals that went out from the facility in Medina County to other ranchers and that’s critical,” said Dr. Wallace Klussmann, a Fredericksburg rancher. “The breeders were on board with these changes and now they are backing out.”
Tarlton agrees testing is a proper step, but being over-regulated might do more harm to the livelihoods of those who work in the industry.
“We are committed to testing for CWD, but we want that testing and surveillance to be balanced with the ability to have a growing and thriving business economy in Texas,” Tarlton said.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife is holding it’s Commission meeting at 9:00 a.m. Thursday morning to talk about new regulations they want to implement when it comes to chronic wasting disease.