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Environmental Activist Group Deceives Wildlife Community by Politicizing CWD

August 10, 2015
TDA Staff

AUSTIN, Texas – A Facebook page called “Texans for Saving Our Hunting Heritage” (TSOHH) has recently publicized a list of groups who have joined in raising alarm about the current CWD situation in Texas.  The actions of TSOHH don’t come as a surprise to the hunting community, who followed their antics during the last legislative session.  Since TSOHH failed to advance their extreme anti-hunting agenda at the state Capitol, they now seek to sway public opinion by politicizing CWD.  The “never let a crisis go to waste” mentality is in full effect, playing on fear and misinformation while throwing the Texas deer industry under the bus.  The problem is this: in not painting the full picture to third party groups, they have deceived others to buying into their tactics.

The question must be asked, why would members of the wildlife community sign on to these allegations, which are based not on facts and science but fear-mongering?  As has been pointed out in the media before, TSOHH is an elitist group with a specific agenda–one that is driven by financial motives without consideration for what is best for Texas landowners and hunters, as well as Texas deer.   

Here are the facts in the case: 

Six weeks have passed since a CWD-positive deer turned up in a Medina County deer facility.  More than a thousand deer ranchers across the state are waiting to see a plan from Texas Parks and Wildlife to determine how they can restore their movement-qualified status; meaning they can resume the transfers of their deer as permitted under state law since 1933. 

These rural Texans, the shepherds of the day, depend on the commerce of the Texas deer industry to support their families.  The economic implications to Texas of this shutdown have been real and harsh.  The vast majority of these families are not blessed with thousands of acres of inherited land as the folks at TSOHH are.

Six weeks have gone by and no additional testing has been mandated for wild deer in the state of Texas.  The source of this Medina County CWD outbreak is unclear.  There is no proof that this incident was not caused by free-ranging deer in the state. 

When CWD was discovered in wild mule deer in far west Texas in 2012, the state of Texas had a very different response.  There was no massive depopulation of the area.  There was only minimal additional testing measures put into place for hunter harvest areas.

The story that TSOHH won’t tell you is this: Deer ranchers are leading the way in CWD testing and preventive measures.  The very reason that the CWD positive was located was thanks to an effective CWD monitoring program already in place.  The system, developed in cooperation between state agencies and industry, requires deer ranchers to test a minimum of 20% of their adult deer mortalities for CWD.

On the contrary, free-ranging deer are tested at extremely low rates.  Since 2003, just 29,855 hunter-harvested deer in Texas have been tested for CWD, or an average of 2,488 deer per year.  Utilizing a conservative average annual Texas deer harvest of 500,000—the percentage of hunter-harvested deer tested for CWD is only 0.4%. 

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

If the disease is so devastating, state officials should require CWD testing at the same percentage rates in all facets of the Texas deer herds; both captive and wild—period.  Yet no mention has been made of mandating the testing of wild deer in Texas; only in captive and liberated deer. 

This politicization of the CWD situation in Texas is not only shameful, but dangerous to our private property rights and freedom to hunt.  Case in point, TSOHH has also actively promoted the message of the Humane Society of the United States, whose recent editorial echoed TSOHH talking points, sounding the drumbeat for more regulation.  The motives of an organization like TSOHH must be called into question when it is willing to side with a group known to be antagonist to hunting just to forward its agenda. 

TSOHH speaks to the importance of the sporting and conservation community being “galvanized” while recycling the same alarmist claims used during the last legislative session.  In reality, TSOHH is continuing to foster a deeper divide in the hunting community.  By alluding to the liberation of captive deer as “potentially amplifying” the CWD situation, they are exposing their true financial agenda: to stop the deer ranching industry in its tracks.

The sad fact is, the hunting community, as well as the landowners and deer of Texas are the ultimate losers in this high-stakes political game.