Texas deer breeders think they are being discriminated against

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Chronic wasting disease (CWD), as it’s known, isn’t caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasite but by an abnormal protein called a prion that can destroy a deer’s brain and spinal cord. Deer contract it by interacting with infected animals or coming into contact with their saliva, urine, or feces. They can even pick it up from contaminated soil. It’s the cervid equivalent of mad cow disease, scrapie in sheep, or Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans

Texas deer breeders think they are being discriminated against

The following is a cut from a story appearing in the January issue of Texas Monthly Magazine.

At a TPWD meeting in Austin in November, deer breeders came from all over the state to protest the proposed extension of the emergency Chronic Wasting Disease rules into next summer. Dozens of men in boots and hats embossed with the names of their ranches milled about the halls of TPWD’s bunker-like concrete building, grousing about anemic sales. “I’ve moved six deer,” Niederwald breeder Bobby Schmidt said of his business since the emergency rules went into effect. “That’s normally one hundred and fifty deer.”

So many had shown up for the meeting, in fact, that TPWD set aside a second room just to accommodate the overflow. But when the hearing began, everyone crowded into the small, wood-paneled council chambers, some clutching pieces of paper scrawled with the grievances they planned to air. After waiting through some early agenda items, the breeders began filing to the lectern. Parks and Wildlife, they lamented, had effectively slapped a scarlet letter of disease onto many ranchers who had done nothing wrong. “I feel like I’m being discriminated against,” said Van Bruns, a breeder and outfitter from Live Oak County.

David Yeates, the CEO of the San Antonio–based conservation group Texas Wildlife Association, saw it very differently. “We haven’t found the source,” he said. “This is an opportunity to nip this in the bud and react in a responsible manner.”

After about an hour of testimony, no one was particularly shocked when the commission ratified the rules. For now, at least, breeders have no choice but to settle in under the new normal while TPWD investigators hunt for a Patient Zero they may never find. “Everything has changed. When it changes, you conform to it and go on,” Terrie says. “What choice do we have? We’ve invested everything in this.”

It’s a great story. Read the article: http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/chronic-wasting-unease/#sthash.OksqaMvy.dpuf or pick it up off the magazine rack.

Photo: Warden Michael Hopper, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, & Tourism

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