What are the chances of finding CWD on my ranch?
CWD is not known to be widespread in Texas. Annually, TPWD collects 12,000 to 15,000 samples from deer in the free-ranging population. This sampling effort provides us with confidence that CWD has not expanded outside areas where it is known to exist or has been recently introduced to new areas where the prevalence is too low in those free-ranging populations to have been detected yet. The likelihood of CWD being present in the deer population on your ranch is very low. However, risk for CWD being present on or near your property may increase where exposed deer from CWD-positive breeding facilities have been released on high-fenced breeder release sites, or if your property is adjacent to a CWD positive breeding facility. Landowners can increase their confidence CWD is not present on their property by testing hunter-harvested deer each hunting season.
Expanded and enhanced CWD surveillance efforts by TPWD during hunting season should not be cause for undue alarm. The increased sampling effort is an attempt to detect the disease in areas where it may have been recently introduced, which may provide greater management options for the landowner. For more information on where CWD has been found, see the CWD in Texas webpage.
What are the benefits of CWD testing deer harvested from my ranch?
CWD testing hunter-harvested deer from your ranch provides confidence to you and your hunters that CWD is not present in the deer population on your property. Long-term monitoring on your ranch also serves to provide a testing history which could be important if CWD is found in isolated populations in the general area near your ranch — such as a deer-breeding facility — and help to provide confidence that CWD is indeed isolated to that population. The number of CWD samples collected in the area could be critical information when TPWD is contemplating CWD zones or other regulation changes to manage the disease. Annual monitoring may also allow for early detection of the disease, providing an opportunity to eliminate the establishment of CWD in the deer population.
What will happen if CWD is discovered on my ranch?
Disease management strategies would likely involve actions intended to limit the spread and distribution of CWD from the area where it exists, which could be limited to a specific property. Understanding several factors that could affect disease prevalence and spread (e.g., geographic extent of the disease, infection rates, how and when the disease was introduced to the area, fence height that may limit immigration/emigration, etc.) would help determine the most appropriate response to address the CWD discovery.
Most likely TPWD and TAHC will establish a CWD zone with requirements to test hunter-harvested deer and restrictions on movements of live animals and certain carcass parts from harvested deer. This approach has worked well to contain CWD in free-ranging populations where it exists. CWD zone sizes vary depending on where the CWD-positive animal was discovered, characteristics of the deer population in that general area, CWD sampling history in the area, and features such as roads and rivers that can be used to easily define zone boundaries.
TPWD is cognizant of potential impacts on landowners and hunters and works to keep CWD zones as small as reasonably possible but large enough to ensure we can determine the geographic extent of the disease and minimize the chance of the disease spreading unnaturally.
With any management strategy, some reduction in the deer population is likely to be recommended unless deer densities are already at low numbers, as is the case in the Hueco Mountains in far West Texas, where CWD was first discovered in Texas. Recommendations to reduce a population density might be appropriate to contain CWD in a limited area, reduce or maintain prevalence rates, and reduce opportunity to infect other animals. TPWD and TAHC will always use the best science available when making such recommendations.
If CWD is discovered on your property, the type of response will depend on the circumstances, but landowners might expect some of the general processes listed below to occur.
- Once a CWD-positive is discovered in a white-tailed deer, mule deer or other susceptible species, the Texas Animal Health Commission and/or the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will contact the property owner and open a dialogue about next steps to address the disease discovery.
- Additional sampling will likely be recommended to determine the geographic extent, disease prevalence, possible sources for the introduction of CWD and help to determine the appropriate disease management response.
- Typically, establishment of CWD Containment and Surveillance Zones in the immediate area are necessary to acquire sufficient sampling to assess the situation through hunter-harvest surveillance, as well as to aid in disease containment.
What are some of the different types of disease management strategies available to manage CWD?
Strategies may include:
- Implement voluntary/mandatory CWD check stations to test harvested deer.
- Recommend activities that minimize unnatural concentration of deer.
- Restrict unnatural movement of live deer.
- Restrict the improper disposal of certain deer carcass parts.
- Provide education about CWD and how landowners/hunters can help prevent or reduce the risk of spreading CWD.
- Provide harvest recommendations to manage for healthy deer population.
Will I have to pay for CWD testing from deer I submit or my hunters submit?
TPWD will pay for testing on all samples collected by TPWD staff. Therefore, hunters and landowners are encouraged to contact TPWD wildlife biologists to have a deer tested for CWD. Find your Wildlife Biologist for your county or Wildlife District.
Landowners or hunters who collect and submit their own CWD samples to Texas A&M Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) are responsible for those CWD-testing expenses.
Will I be able to keep the antlers from a buck that I want to have tested for CWD?
Yes! Antlers may be retained by hunters who desire to have CWD samples collected. A proper tissue sample (retropharyngeal lymph node or obex) may be collected without damaging the cape or antlers. Hunters retaining the antlers are strongly encouraged to discard brain tissue or other nervous system material in a landfill or at the location of harvest (preferably buried).
Note: If you hunt in a CWD zone, only certain parts may leave that CWD zone. (Even when you're not in a CWD zone, it='s good practice to properly dispose of your carcass parts responsibly.)
Parts that may be transported from a zone include:
- cut quarters with all brain and spinal cord tissue removed
- boned-out meat
- cut and wrapped meat
- caped hides with skull not attached
- skull plate with antlers attached and cleaned of soft tissue
- finished taxidermy products
- the skinned or unskinned head of a deer for transport to a taxidermist (A Deer Head Waiver form must accompany the head to the taxidermist.)
Where should I dispose of inedible carcass parts or heads after field dressing or cleaning my animal?
To minimize the risk of spreading CWD through infected carcass parts and contaminating the environment, hunters or persons receiving deer carcasses are strongly encouraged to dispose of inedible carcass parts at the site of harvest, preferably buried, or in the trash that will go to a landfill. Brain matter, eyes, lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen and spinal cord are tissues where infectious CWD prions concentrate and should be disposed of in an appropriate location.
How will I be able to find out what the CWD test results are for the deer I submitted for testing?
Results from CWD samples collected by TPWD staff will be made available on the TPWD CWD website within about 2 weeks of collecting samples. Each person will receive a CWD sample receipt with a unique identification number for each CWD sample taken. The results will be posted by the CWD sample identification number on the receipt. To see your CWD test results, go to the CWD test results webpage and enter the receipt number.
Can I require my hunters to test for CWD from deer or any susceptible species that they harvest on my ranch outside of current CWD zones?
Whether a landowner chooses to require hunters to have all deer (and other susceptible species) harvested on the property tested for CWD is a decision to be made between a landowner and the hunters. TPWD encourages landowners to submit as many samples as they wish to help provide more confidence that CWD is not in free-ranging deer populations beyond where it is known to exist.