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Deer Hunters Urged To Take Precautions Against Fever Ticks
AUSTIN, Texas — State wildlife officials are urging deer hunters and meat processors in South Texas to take additional precautions when handling deer carcasses during the upcoming season due to concerns about possible spread of fever ticks in the region.
Portions of Maverick, Dimmit and Webb counties are currently under livestock quarantine by the Texas Animal Health Commission due to heightened levels of fever ticks outside the permanent quarantine zone along the Rio Grande border.
If not contained, according to TAHC officials, the fever ticks will continue to spread northward outside the permanent fever tick quarantine area and could become re-established in other areas of Texas and throughout much of the south, southeast and parts of California.
In addition to cattle, horses, white-tailed deer, Nilgai and elk can act as a host for the tick, perpetuating its population.
“We’re asking that hunters use common sense and take precautions when handling and transporting deer taken on ranches within the quarantine zone,” said Mike Berger, PhD, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department director of wildlife.
According to the TAHC, fever ticks can affect the condition and general well-being, but are unlikely to cause death in deer. It is safe to eat venison from fever tick infected deer.
Hunters are reminded that if you kill a deer on property that is NOT known to be infested, then you may process or transport the carcass as usual even though the ranch may be within the quarantine zone. However, if you kill a deer on property known to be infested, then you have three options: Leave the hide on ranch; freeze the hide for 24 hours, or have the hide/cape treated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fever Tick Force before removing it from the ranch.
In addition to deer processing and transport restrictive measures, all use of corn treated with the anti-parasitic Ivermectin should cease immediately through March 1. Ivermectin use requires a withholding period of 60 days before slaughter or harvest.
“There is too much at stake here to take a chance on inadvertently carrying this deadly parasite outside the quarantine zone and we are asking hunters to be vigilant to help keep this tick from spreading,” Berger stressed.
Fever ticks are capable of carrying and transmitting a protozoa—or tiny blood parasite—that destroys red blood cells, causing the deadly livestock disease, "Texas Fever." Cattle are highly susceptible to "Texas Fever," and the disease may kill up to 90 percent of infected cattle.
"It took more than 50 years to eradicate fever ticks from the U.S.," said Dr. Bob Hillman, TAHC executive director and Texas’ state veterinarian.
A permanent fever tick quarantine zone runs through eight South Texas counties along the Rio Grande to prevent the reintroduction of the ticks into Texas and the U.S.
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