SAN ANTONIO –-(Ammoland.com)- The Texas Deer Association (TDA) applauds the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) for their commitment and continued vigilance in monitoring deer in Texas to minimize risk of disease transmission to both wild and breeder deer populations.
TDA notes the stepped up efforts are especially needed to preserve and protect the contributions of the breeder deer industry to the state’s struggling economy.
The TPWD reported that recent confirmation of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a farmed white-tailed deer in Missouri has caused the department to increase its surveillance efforts in Texas.
As part of their efforts, they plan to have state biologists at locker plants and processing facilities for deer hunters who may want to voluntarily donate harvested deer brain tissue samples for CWD testing, even though extensive testing since 2002 has not yielded a single positive test in Texas.
CWD is an infectious neurological disease known to occur only in white-tailed deer, mule deer, black-tailed deer, moose, elk and sitka. The TPWD news report noted, “There is no indication that CWD in deer can lead to disease in native livestock or people. Wildlife officials regard prevention as the primary and most effective tool to combat CWD.”
The deer breeding industry continues to cooperate with both the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and TPWD as they have from the inception of the CWD surveillance program to develop standards and guidelines to minimize risk and to punish violators. Deer breeders are subjected to stringent testing and reporting requirements with operators keeping detailed records of every deer born, living or dying under their care. Texas deer breeders are required to test 20 percent of all deaths at their own expense, and many test 100 percent of all mortalities. Texas breeders have tested over 41% of all deer tested. At $100 per average total test cost, that amounts to an estimated $1,287,900, a significant and growing investment that deer breeders have spent to assure their industry remains secure. In addition, TDA has a strict internal code of ethics and standards to take steps against members who violate those standards. TDA’s internal ethics policies applicable to its members has been complimented by TPWD’s Scott Boruff, Deputy Executive Director for Operations.
Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director, stated, “More than 1,200 permits are issued annually to deer breeders in Texas covering an estimated 80,000 whitetails held in captivity. The vast majority of deer breeders operate within guidelines designed to minimize risk of disease transmission.” He reported that TPWD has tested about 800 illegally-possessed deer from 32 violators, and that all deer tested were found to be free of CWD. Unfortunately, there is no available test for live animals at this time.
In 2005, TAHC and TPWD implemented a ban importation of deer into Texas. Since then, subsequent monitoring and testing of CWD has not shown the disease to be the health risk once feared, and everyone involved in the deer industry wants to keep it that way. According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services, approximately 164,500 farmed cervids (both deer and elk) have been tested across the nation since 2002 and, of that number, only 171 farmed cervids tested positive for CWD. Of those, USDA reported CWD was detected in 13 farmed white-tailed deer herds and 39 farmed elk herds in 11 states: CO, KS, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NY, OK, SD, WI. Out of approximately 775,000 free-ranging wild cervids tested since 2002, approximately 3,130 animals were found to be positive in 15 states: CO, IL, KS, MD, MN, ND, NE, NM, NY, SD, UT, VA, WI, WV, WY. According to this data, CWD is more prevalent in wild, or free-ranging, cervids than in farmed, or ‘ranch-raised’ cervids by a ratio of 4 to 1. TPWD reports that, from 2002 through 2010, a total of 31,325 ranch-raised and wild cervids have been tested for CWD, but CWD has never been found in Texas in white-tailed deer or any other cervids.
Dr. Don Davis, Associate Professor, Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, expressed his concern that other diseases that are known to exist in Texas, including Blue Tongue, Anthrax and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), have been especially devastating to both wild and farmed deer this year resulting in the loss of hundreds if not thousands of deer. He explained, “Anthrax always occurs at some level annually in the Southern Edwards Plateau generally in native and free-ranging ruminants.” In the summer of 2007, landowners in nine Texas counties lost as much as 34% of their free ranging white-tailed deer to an outbreak of common diseases, including Anthrax, which underscores the need for research on all diseases affecting white-tailed deer.
Dr. James Kroll, renowned expert on white-tailed deer, echoed Dr. Davis’ concern in previous legislative testimony. He reiterated, “Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine, stepped forward to help with deer disease research but received no public funds to do so in spite of a 2009 legislative request for such funding. The TDA has contributed to research on EHD and Blue Tongue, perhaps the most significant diseases of free-ranging and ranch raised whitetails.”
Dr. Kroll hopes the increased attention at this time on preventing CWD will help the state to also focus on the need for education, prevention and research on deer diseases confirmed to exist in Texas.
A Texas A&M Economic Study on Deer Breeding concluded the “industry is a growing and important segment of the Texas economy, contributing to the vitality of rural areas of the state.”
They reported the deer industry including hunting, deer breeding and tourism have an economic impact to the state of over $2.2 billion.
Earlier this year, Dr. Kroll spoke on the industry’s current status, “Texas has been a leader in deer management since the 1970s, and now enjoys a leadership role in deer breeding. Today, there are over 1,200 active deer breeders, most of which represent small landowners and family-run operations. Whereas, managing for trophy whitetails once was the purview of the wealthy landowner with thousands of acres, deer breeding allows the small family operation to compete. It is safe to say, deer breeding is contributing to saving the family farm or ranch in many cases.”
On a national level, individuals involved in the deer industry have been working for several years to secure funding for a research measure successfully included in the current U.S. Farm Bill. The North American Deer Farmers’ Association (NADeFA), with the assistance of Texas U. S. Congressman Michael Conaway, along with individuals representing the deer industry from across the nation, including TDA members, were able to secure a measure in the bill to include a Deer Research Initiative to focus on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of infectious, parasitic and toxic diseases including research dedicated to developing vaccines for EHD and Blue Tongue disease in ranch-raised cervidae. Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples as well as U.S. Senator John Cornyn were also helpful in bringing initial attention to the need for the research effort. Funding for that measure has yet to be secured, but efforts will continue on this vitally needed project. Texas A&M University, College of Veterinary Medicine is regarded as a likely site for the program.
TDA’s president, Gilbert T. Adams, III, affirmed the goal of TDA co-founder Dr. James Kroll, “TDA will continue to advocate for a comprehensive, long-term plan to develop a healthy deer industry in our State. Such a plan will respect the philosophical differences of naturalists and alternative livestock operators while also requiring a cooperative effort between state agencies, the legislature and private landowner/operators; one that acknowledges the need for the management of game animals and respects the role of the private landowner whose stewardship is key to the continued existence of game animals.”
Headquartered in San Antonio, the Texas Deer Association is the only non-profit organization solely committed to improving the quality of Texas deer herds through improved habitat practices, modern harvest strategies and use of superior deer to enhance the deer herds. To learn more about the TDA or for membership information, visit www.texasdeerassociation.com or call (210) 767-8300. Office is located at 403 East Ramsey Ste 204, San Antonio, TX 78216.