Chronic Wasting Disease

Sick white-tailed deer

Photo: Warden Micheal Hopper, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism  

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a neurological disease in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, known as "cervids." The disease was first recognized in 1967 in captive mule deer in Colorado, and has since been documented in captive and free-ranging deer in states and two Canadian Provinces. The first case of CWD in Texas was discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in an isolated area of far West Texas.

This disease presents numerous challenges for state wildlife agencies across North America. Of concern is the potential for decline within deer, elk, or other susceptible cervid populations. In addition, CWD could have indirect impacts on hunting, hunter participation, and economic benefits derived from big game hunting. In Texas, hunting is a $2.2 billion economic engine, supporting many rural towns across the state.

Because eradication is thought to be impossible once CWD becomes established in a population, it is imperative that a sound CWD management program is established to reduce the severity of implications resulting from the disease. Of course, disease prevention is the best approach to protect cervid populations and prevent social and economic repercussions. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) have developed a cooperative CWD management plan to guide both agencies in addressing risks, developing management strategies, and protecting big game resources from Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in captive or free-ranging cervid populations.

CWD Management & Regulations for Hunters

Mandatory CWD Testing Requirements

New regulations for the 2017-18 hunting season include the establishment of chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones. Hunters who harvest mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, red deer, or other CWD susceptible species within the Trans-Pecos, Panhandle, and South-Central Texas CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones are REQUIRED to bring their animals to a TPWD check station within 48 hours of harvest. TPWD urges voluntary sampling of hunter harvested deer outside of these zones. The new rules also impose restriction of permitted deer movements to and from CWD zones.

Hunters should also be aware of rules banning importation of certain deer, elk, and other CWD susceptible species carcass parts from states where the disease has been detected, as well as the movement of the same carcass parts from CWD zones. The rules are part of the state’s comprehensive CWD management plan to determine the prevalence and geographic extent of the disease and to contain the disease to the areas where it is known to exist.

See the CWD Management & Regulations for Hunters PDF for details, regulations, check station information, and carcass movement restrictions.

Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) has statewide mandatory testing requirements of exotic CWD susceptible species such as elk, red deer, sika, moose, reindeer, and any associated subspecies and hybrids. Please go to the Texas Animal Health Commission website for more information.

CWD in Texas

The first case of CWD in Texas was discovered in 2012 in free-ranging mule deer in an isolated area of far West Texas. The disease has since been detected in a total of 13 mule deer in that West Texas population located in the Hueco Mountains, and 3 mule deer and 1 elk in Dallam and Hartley counties, located in the northwest Panhandle.

The first case of CWD in Texas white-tailed deer was found in a deer-breeding facility in 2015 as a result of routine disease monitoring. Increased testing requirements resulted in the detection of CWD in 4 additional deer breeding facilities and two release sites adjacent to the CWD-positive deer breeding facilities. CWD was detected in a free-ranging white-tailed deer in Medina County in 2017.

A total of 50 CWD positive deer and elk have been discovered in Texas to date, 32 of those from white-tailed deer either in, or originating from captive deer breeding facilities, 16 from free-ranging mule deer, 1 free-ranging elk, and 1 free-ranging white-tailed deer. See CWD Positives in Texas for details and chronology of CWD detections in Texas.

With the discovery of CWD in a captive deer breeding facility in south-central Texas the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission adopted comprehensive CWD Management Rules on June 20, 2016. These rules address CWD management associated with permitting programs that authorize intensive deer management activities, and were developed through a collaborative process that involved substantial stakeholder input. A copy of the rules is available to download as a PDF. Additional rules regarding CWD monitoring zones and carcass movement restrictions were adopted by the TPW Commission on August 25, 2016. As new cases of CWD were discovered in additional captive deer breeding facilities as well as free-ranging deer and elk in 2016 / 2017, the TPW Commission adopted modifications to the rules pertaining to live-deer movements into, within, and out of CWD Containment Zones and Surveillance Zones. Both sets of rules are intended to reduce the chances of spreading CWD and increasing the chances of detecting and containing CWD in areas where it might be present.

Check Stations & Zones

Certified CWD Collectors

These individuals have been certified to collect postmortem CWD samples by Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and have been provided materials and supplies to properly act as a TPWD sample collection station.
Select county to see certified CWD collectors.

TPWD CWD Management Plan

The Chronic Wasting Disease Management Plan (.pdf) will serve to guide Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) in addressing risks, developing management strategies, and protecting big game resources from Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in captive or free-ranging cervid populations. Both agencies recognize the need for full cooperation and partnership among government agencies, conservation organizations, private landowners, hunters, and the general public should CWD occur in Texas. CWD is a reportable disease and TAHC has authority for reporting and tracking this disease in alternative livestock, which includes elk, red deer and sika deer. TPWD has regulatory authority for free-ranging white-tailed deer and mule deer, and both agencies share regulatory authority over captive deer held under the authority of Deer Breeder Permits.

This management plan is intended to be dynamic; management strategies described within are likely to change as both the epidemiology and management of this disease become better understood through time. Specific response plans may be developed and incorporated into this plan following local or regional discoveries of CWD. Three major goals of this CWD management plan are:

  • Minimize CWD risks to the wild and captive white-tailed deer, mule deer, and other susceptible species in Texas.
  • Establish and maintain support for prudent CWD management with hunters, landowners, and other stakeholders.
  • Minimize direct and indirect impacts of CWD to hunting, hunting related economies, and conservation in Texas


CWD Symposium