AUSTIN – Deer hunters in certain areas of Texas and those who hunt in other states where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected should familiarize themselves with new carcass movement restrictions and mandatory requirements for testing of harvested deer.
CWD is an infectious and fatal neurological disease that affects many cervid species, including deer and elk. While there are no known cases of CWD being transmitted to humans, health officials recommend not consuming venison from sick and diseased animals. Since the CWD prions that cause the disease are known to be present in tissues of infected animals (especially brain, spinal cord and viscera), the new deer carcass movement restrictions establish the conditions under which certain parts of a harvested white-tailed deer or mule deer could be lawfully transported from CWD management zones in Texas or any susceptible cervid species from a state, province or other place outside Texas where CWD has been detected among free-ranging or captive herds.
The rules are part of the state’s comprehensive CWD management plan, which calls for measures to determine the prevalence and geographic extent of the disease where it exists and to reduce the risk of CWD being spread via permitted live deer relocation and movement of harvested deer carcasses.
CWD was first detected in free-ranging mule deer within the Hueco Mountains of far West Texas in 2012. Last year, the disease showed up in another free-ranging mule deer in Hartley County in the western Panhandle and in several Central Texas captive white-tailed deer breeding operations. An up to date chronology of CWD cases in Texas, maps outlining CWD management zones and check station locations, along with a map depicting locations in other states where the disease has been detected, are available online at www.tpwd.texas.gov/cwd .
Under the new rules adopted this summer by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, hunters transporting carcasses from other CWD states and from CWD management zones in the Trans Pecos and Panhandle will only be allowed to transport certain animal parts in the following conditions: cut quarters with the brain stem and spinal tissue removed, caped hides with skull not attached, the skull plate with antlers attached and cleaned of all soft tissue or finished taxidermy products. Hunters may also transport boned or packaged venison out of these areas provided the carcasses have been processed in compliance with the regulations governing a commercial facility or private cold storage processing facility.
In addition to the carcass movement rules, all deer harvested in the Panhandle and Trans Pecos CWD zones must be reported to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) check stations.
Hunters wishing to preserve a head for mounting can obtain a waiver to transport the skinned or unskinned head of a susceptible species to a taxidermist, provided all brain material, soft tissue, spinal column and any unused portions of the head are disposed of in a landfill in Texas permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. These waivers can be obtained at CWD check stations where TPWD staff will collect CWD samples. Texans hunting out of state can obtain releases online at www.tpwd.texas.gov/cwd .
Last season, TPWD accumulated more than 10,000 CWD samples from hunter harvested and roadkill deer throughout the state. The department is asking hunters and landowners statewide for their help again this year by voluntarily making harvested deer available for sampling at no cost. A heightened grassroots effort at voluntary sampling is also occurring in portions of Bandera, Medina and Uvalde counties due to the detection of CWD in deer breeding facilities in this area. A list of collection sites and times is available online at www.tpwd.texas.gov/cwd . In addition to those established collection locations, biologists will also be conducting localized sampling at various sites throughout the season to meet sampling objectives. For additional information regarding localized CWD sampling efforts during this deer season, please contact your local wildlife biologist (http://tpwd.texas.gov/landwater/land/technical_guidance/biologists/ ).