The National Deer Association (NDA) recently joined a sizable group of conservation organizations and Texas landowners in submitting a petition for emergency action and rulemaking with respect to chronic wasting disease (CWD) to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to be immediately considered as required by Texas law.
The recent and continued outbreaks of CWD across Texas, along with the unidentified source of the outbreak and the demonstrable lack of compliance (around 40%) by trace release site operators with CWD testing requirements, creates this emergency which requires immediate action. The legal movement of live deer under these circumstances represents an immediate risk to wild deer populations in Texas.
As a result, the petition asks for specific actions to be taken by TPWD, including emergency action and rulemaking. Specifically, the petition seeks:
- An immediate emergency action to halt all movement of live deer, including but not limited to breeder deer (breeding stock of known lineage intended to alter the normal frequency of certain phenotypes, such as antler characteristics), until rules can be developed to provide greater certainty that:
- Only deer in a healthy condition are approved for liberation, per TPWD Code 43.362; and
- Potentially exposed, liberated animals can be promptly located and tested in a timely manner.
- Rulemaking on the following items prior to movement being resumed:
- Develop a companion rule to current statute TPWD Code Sec. 43.3561 that requires permanent, visible individual identification of breeder deer;
- Require a disclosure and acknowledgement statement by release sites prior to issuance of a transfer permit and liberation outlining responsibilities associated with a future CWD detection in the source herd be added to this acceptance procedure. The recipient of the transferred captive deer should acknowledge and agree to comply with the terms of any potential herd plan, including, but not limited to, enhanced testing, in the event of a future trace-out from a CWD positive facility; and
- Require tonsil biopsy for antemortem tests prior to liberation or prior breeder to breeder movement. Tonsil tests have been identified by the Texas CWD Task Force, which includes representation by captive cervid owners, as the most reliable antemortem CWD test for breeders who test prior to moving deer to other facilities.
The NDA opposes captive propagation of deer and other cervids for many reasons, including concerns with the introduction of novel diseases from captive cervids to native wildlife and domestic livestock, competition of escaped cervids with native species for space and forage, and hybridization between escaped captive and native cervids. Other concerns are conservation issues regarding the privatization of wildlife, fair chase issues related to commercial hunting, the inability to distinguish escaped captive cervids from free-ranging species, and the wildlife agency’s responsibility to remove escaped animals not recovered by the owner.
The recommendations for emergency action and rulemaking in this petition offer common-sense solutions to slow the rapid spread of CWD in Texas, and the NDA has advocated for similar laws and regulations in other states with respect to captive cervids and CWD.