TPWD Looking To Harvest Deer For “Disease Management”

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Texas Parks & Wildlife Department staff seeks adoption of a proposed rule governing the take of wildlife. The proposed rule would provide for the issuance of a special authorization for the take of white-tailed and/or mule deer when necessary to assist in department efforts to manage chronic wasting disease (CWD).


DISEASE MANAGEMENT RULES

SPECIAL TAKE AUTHORIZATION RULES

PROPOSAL PREAMBLE

1. Introduction

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department proposes new 31 TAC §65.907, concerning Special Take Authorization – White-tailed and Mule Deer.

The proposed new section would create provisions governing the take of white-tailed or mule deer by landowners and their agents as authorized by the department when necessary to aid or assist the department’s efforts to respond to chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The Texas Legislature during the most recent regular session passed House Bill 3065, which allows the take of wildlife by persons authorized by the department to do so “as part of a program or event designated by the executive director as being conducted for the diagnosis, management, or prevention of a disease in wildlife.” The proposed rule would set forth a carefully controlled and highly regulated process under which the department would authorize persons not employed by the department to take native deer as part of department-sponsored research and management activities. Prior to the passage of H.B. 3065, if the take of a species of wildlife was regulated by a season, time of day, bag limit, or means established by the commission, only department employees or academics conducting activities under a research permit could take such wildlife in contravention of those limitations. The emergence and spread of CWD from deer breeding facilities to release sites has presented a unique challenge to the department, in terms of being able to facilitate the quick identification and removal of “trace deer” (deer that at some point were in a deer breeding facility where CWD was subsequently detected (positive facility) or that have become epidemiologically linked to a positive facility) at locations that have received deer from deer breeding facilities. The more expeditiously trace deer can be removed from the landscape and tested, the less likely it is that the deer, if infected with CWD, will have been able to infect additional animals or shed infectious prions at the release site. Additionally, such activities add to the department’s understanding of the nature of CWD, its transmission, progression, and presence in the environment. Thus, if a release site becomes epidemiologically linked to a positive facility at a time of year when hunting is not lawful, there was no mechanism for the department to authorize persons not employed by the department to take deer to assist the department in disease management and research. The department also could use this authority to conduct epidemiological investigations at locations that were not release sites for breeder deer, as part of broader sampling and monitoring efforts.

The activities of a special take authorization are not recreational hunting or traditional wildlife management, they are part of the department’s management efforts to study and control CWD. Therefore, the provisions of the rules contain strict provisions to eliminate any possible confusion on the part of the public or persons involved with respect to the purpose or intent of a special take authorization.

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