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 24 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 2016-17 hunting season include the establishment of chronic wasting disease (CWD) management zones. Hunters who harvest mule deer, white-tailed deer, or elk within the Trans-Pecos and Panhandle CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones are REQUIRED to bring their animals to a TPWD check station within 24 hours of harvest. TPWD urges voluntary sampling of hunter harvested deer in the Medina area CWD Surveillance Zone. The new rules also impose restriction of permitted deer movements to and from CWD zones.

Hunters should also be aware of new rules banning importation of certain deer and elk carcass parts from states where the disease has been detected, as well as the movement of the same carcass parts from CWD zones in the Trans Pecos and Panhandle. The new 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, and carcass movement restrictions.

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 8 mule deer in that West Texas population located in the Hueco Mountains, and 1 mule deer in Hartley County, 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 3 additional deer breeding facilities and one release site adjacent to a CWD-positive deer breeding facility.

A total of 35 CWD positive deer have been discovered in Texas to date, 26 of those from white-tailed deer either in, or originating from captive deer breeding facilities, and 9 from free-ranging mule deer. See CWD Positives in Texas for details and chronology of CWD detections in Texas.

New CWD Management Rules adopted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) Commission on June 20, 2016 went into effect on August 15, 2016. The new 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 new 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, and are expected to become effective on October 1, 2016. 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. A brief summary of the discovery of CWD in white-tailed deer in Texas is as follows.

On June 30, 2015, the department received confirmation that a two-year-old white-tailed deer held in a deer breeding facility in Medina County (referred to as the "index facility") had tested positive for CWD. Subsequent testing confirmed the presence of CWD in three additional white-tailed deer at the index facility. Heightened testing requirements implemented statewide since the initial discovery of CWD in Medina County have resulted in additional discoveries. A total of 26 white-tailed breeder deer have now been confirmed positive at four facilities (including the index facility). A total of four CWD positive deer were found in the index facility. Five CWD positive deer that originated from the index facility were discovered in a Lavaca County breeding facility. A CWD positive deer was harvested from a Medina County release site and another CWD positive deer was sampled in the associated breeding facility located on the same ranch. While this breeding facility is epidemiologically linked to the index facility, neither positive deer at this location originated from the index facility. Most recently, another CWD positive deer was discovered in another Medina County deer breeding facility, and subsequent testing revealed an additional thirteen CWD positive deer from the same facility, totaling 14 positive deer at that location. Additionally during the 2015/16 hunting season, a free-ranging hunter-harvested mule deer in Hartley County was also confirmed to have CWD, as well as another hunter-harvested mule deer in the Hueco Mountains.

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