A white-tailed deer that was part of a private deer breeding herd has tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife. This is the first time that a deer that is part of a captive herd has been confirmed to have CWD, in Texas.
It is routine to have samples sent in for analysis from deer from captive herds as well as those from wild deer and that was what happened in the case of this deer from Medina County. The samples were sent to the Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, which is operated at Texas A&M University. Initial indications were that the white-tailed deer had CDW. This diagnosis was confirmed by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa on June 30.
Previously, a wild mule deer in the Hueco Mountains tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease back in 2012. However, this is the first time in Texas that a deer in a captive herd has tested positive for the disease, which can infect any member of the deer family, including elk.
After the confirmation of CWD infection in Texas, a study was immediately launched to determine the impact to wild and captive deer and elk in the state. The study is being done by Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Veterinary Service, which is part of the USDA.
More tests will be conducted on the deer in the private herd, too, as well as those herds where deer from the captive herd have been relocated. Until those tests are completed, none of the deer in the captive herd will be allowed to be set free. These and other actions are being taken in an attempt to prevent the spread of CWD into the wild population of whitetail deer, mule deer and elk herds.
The biggest concern Texas Parks & Wildlife has is that the Chronic Wasting Disease could spread out of control. This is a worry that is shared by game and wildlife commissions in other states as well. For this reason, most states have plans already in place for actions to be taken when deer test positive for CWD. The danger is legitimate. Wildlife biologists still don’t know for certain how the disease is transmitted. It is currently believed that it can spread through direct animal to animal contact or possibly from contaminated feeding grounds.
CWD is fatal to deer, though, and there is no known treatment or preventative. It only affects members of the deer family and there are no known and confirmed cases of the disease-causing any illness in people who come in contact with the deer or consume them. Still, if the disease is unchecked, Chronic Wasting Disease has the potential to decimate entire herds of deer and elk.
The first case of CWD that is documented was in a captive deer in Colorado, back in 1967. That was a mule deer. Since then, the disease has been found in deer in 23 US states and 2 Canadian provinces. Because of the danger to the deer, when it is detected, state game commissions rapidly institute the plans that have been developed for this situation. Every instance of a deer that tests positive for CWD is treated as an event of major importance.
Though there is no known risk to people from infected deer, elk and moose, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control recommend not consuming deer that have this disease.