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Texas Implements Emergency Rule for Captive Deer Transport
On July 25th, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) enacted an emergency rule requiring additional movement and testing restrictions for white-tailed deer in captive breeding facilities to slow the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The rule was implemented to slow disease transmission following a rapid increase in positive cases over 14 counties between March 2021 and 2023.
“Since 2021, we have seen an increase in CWD detections from breeder deer at an unprecedented rate,” said John Silovsky, Wildlife Division Director for TPWD. “It’s our hope that these emergency rules will strengthen our surveillance and reduce the number of CWD-positive detections across the state.”
This TPWD emergency rule requires all breeder deer to be live tested for CWD with a test result of “Not Detected” before an animal may be moved to another deer breeding facility or release site. The rule was set for 120 days with the option to extend another 60 days, if necessary.
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Additionally, the TPWD determined that “…to expedite and facilitate epidemiological investigations, it is necessary to prohibit the removal of identification tags under any circumstance other than allowed by statute.”
The TPWD emergency rule is critical but not exactly timely. “In Texas, the disease was detected at three facilities outside of Dallas and San Antonio, but only after those facilities shipped deer to more than 260 others across the state,” reported Whit Fosburgh for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in October 2021.
Chronic Wasting Disease is a major concern for state fish and wildlife agencies and game farms nationwide, and preventing its spread is a top conservation priority. In 2021, Idaho’s first case popped up, coinciding with national legislation, the “Chronic Wasting Disease Management and Research Act,” attempting to get a handle on disease transmission.
Since January 2022, the number of states with reported CWD cases has risen from 27 to 31. Whether the cases in new states represent new occurrences or the results of increased testing is unknown, but the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Herd Certification Program” for captive deer farms may be part of the problem.
The Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Program is a cooperative effort between the USDA, State animal health and wildlife agencies, and farm owners. The program is completely voluntary and encourages captive deer, elk, and moose owners to certify that their herds comply with the CWD Herd Certification Program standards. The only incentive for program compliance is that federal regulation prohibits noncompliant facilities from interstate animal transport.
A review of the USDA Herd Certification Program is being funded by the Chronic Wasting Disease Management and Research Act, but mandatory participation for intrastate transport may be all that’s missing. The enactment of stricter intrastate transport regulations would be the responsibility of each respective state, which Texas is now attempting and is halfway through the 120-day emergency rule period.
1.News Release: July 25, 2023: Emergency Rules Adopted for Movement of Breeder Deer – TPWD (texas.gov)
2.This Is the #1 Threat to Deer Hunting | Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (trcp.org)
3.Chronic Wasting Disease Reaches Capitol Hill – Harvesting Nature
4.Expanding Distribution of Chronic Wasting Disease (usgs.gov)
5.Congress Passes Important Chronic Wasting Disease Legislation (trcp.org)
6.USDA APHIS | Cervids: CWD Voluntary Herd Certiﬁcation Program
7.Code of Federal Regulations Title 9 Part 55 Chronic Wasting Disease (usda.gov)