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A Q&A About CWD in Texas...

August 7, 2015

A Q&A About CWD in Texas…

While there is no doubt that the concern of CWD in our state is something to be taken seriously, here are some important facts to remember when considering the CWD situation in Texas: 

Q: Can humans catch CWD from deer?

A: No, CWD is not a human health concern.


Q: How widespread are deer deaths from CWD?
A: In fact, CWD hasn’t killed thousands of deer nationwide… the “preventative measures” enacted by state wildlife and natural resource departments have.

Q: Are captive deer tested for CWD?
A: Deer ranchers are leading the way in CWD testing and preventive measures. 

  • Deer ranchers are required to test a minimum of 20% of their adult deer mortalities for CWD.
  • Since 2003, just 29,855 hunter-harvested deer have been tested for CWD, or an average of 2,488 deer per year.  Utilizing an annual Texas harvest of 500,000—the percentage of hunter-harvested deer tested for CWD is only .4%.  

This means that captive deer are tested at a MINIMUM of more than 40 times higher than hunter-harvested, free-ranging deer that are under the auspices of TPWD.


Q: How long have captive deer been tested for CWD?
A: Texas deer ranchers have participated in CWD monitoring programs since 2007. In fact, the ranch from which the positive result occurred was participating in such a program, proving that the monitoring system currently in place is effective.  Hundreds of these monitored herds have absolutely zero traceable connections to the index herd and have invested much effort and financing into building CWD status through the USDA.  That these herds were also shut down is an unnecessary restriction of commerce creating financial hardships for Texas citizens.


Q: Is it necessary to kill deer to test them from CWD?
A: No—it is not necessary. Over the last decade more research has been done to develop a live-animal test for CWD.  Though this test is not validated by the USDA, Texas has the authority and should take the lead in the utilization of live-animal testing.  


Q: Is a moratorium on deer movement the best thing for Texas and its deer?
A: Suspending the deer industry negatively impacts not only the entire hunting community, but rural economies and the entire state of Texas.  As a $700 million industry, deer ranching produces a tremendous economic benefit for rural communities across the state. And the end result of members’ efforts is the creation of a host of new opportunities for quality hunts on private land—essential to the continuation of our rich hunting tradition in Texas. 


Q. Can CWD be transmitted by urine and feces from deer to deer?
A. While CWD prions can be found in urine and feces from CWD infected deer, a recent study suggests that it may not be a serious factor.  In a 2009 study by Mathiason et al , it was written: “Each of 3 deer received repeated (90 daily) oral doses of urine and feces from CWD+ source deer ranging from preclinical to advanced clinical disease… All of the recipient deer remained PrPcwd-negative throughout the 19-month study course.”

If deer can’t be infected by 90 daily oral doses of CWD contaminated urine and feces, then how likely is this a serious problem overall?


Q. Can deer be infected by consuming CWD contaminated plants?
A. While it has been shown experimentally that a few plants are capable of prion uptake and that hamsters or mice can be infected orally by feeding them the plants, it has never been shown experimentally or in nature that deer can be infected by consuming CWD contaminated plant material.

Hamsters and mice are not ruminants, and they are certainly not deer. Species are very different in their susceptibility to CWD. Not even all deer species are susceptible to CWD. In many instances, what is shown to be possible in the laboratory, is found to be highly improbable in the real world.


Q. Is CWD really a devastating disease risk to the populations of free-ranging wild deer and elk?
A:  Early disease simulation models which predicted dire effects of CWD on populations and possible eradication of some populations have been shown to be untrue.  In the latest and most comprehensive study in Wyoming where CWD has existed for almost 50 years, a dissertation by Dr. David Edmunds  states that “few deer and no elk populations are considered in danger of decline due to CWD.” Edmunds also states that, “no population of mule deer or white-tailed deer in either CO or WY where endemic CWD have occurred for greater than 50 years have been lost.” CWD is a rare and slowly-moving disease with annual mortality rarely above that of hunter harvest.